Ottawa is beefing up health and safety protection for public transit staffers.
This week the federal government unanimously passed Bill S-221, which amends the Criminal Code and allows judges to impose stricter penalties on those found guilty of assaulting transportation operators.
Under the new law, judges would be required to consider a transit driver’s occupation as an “aggravating circumstance” during sentencing.
The move was lauded by unions, including the Amalgamated Transit Union’s local 113 chapter, which represents more than 10,000 transportation staffers in Toronto and York Region.
“It took over a decade of effort by our union to get recognition of this problem and we are grateful it has finally happened,” said Bob Kinnear, president of ATU local 113. “There are hundreds of assaults every year against TTC workers alone and many more across Canada.”
According to Kinnear, assaults on TTC staffers are a rampant and pressing health and safety concern — vehicle operators are spat on, threatened and even pelted with hot coffee.
“Our members have been punched, slapped, kicked, strangled, stabbed and shot at, usually over a fare dispute. We have had cases where bus drivers have been dragged out of their seats and viciously beaten, just for doing their jobs,” he said, adding that, “If there’s such a thing as injustice, this is it.”
But the changes do not cover transit workers who do not specifically run the vehicles, such as station collectors. This is particularly troubling, Kinnear said, citing as example the death of Jimmy Trajceski, a TTC collector who was stabbed dead on the job at Victoria Park station in 1995.
The bill is slated for royal assent in the coming weeks.
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