Our transit system is in crisis, and transit workers are suffering the consequences.
Workers and the public are experiencing unparalleled violence that has gone unchecked by our federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government.
As stated by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 which represents 12,000 transit workers in Toronto and York region, “Transit workers should not have to go to work in fear of their lives. These attacks leave long-term psychological impacts that remain with our members much after their physical wounds have healed.”
Patty Coates, Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) President, added, “We need more than a knee-jerk reaction by politicians to increase police presence which may harm other communities. Transit workers and the public deserve far-reaching solutions such as significant investments in mental health programs, crisis workers who are trusted by community members, and investments in transit itself.”
Limiting resources to the transit vehicles alone is naive; all frontline workers are experiencing a surge in workplace violence, and the culprit is a cost-of-living crisis with no supports in sight from our elected leaders. The transit system is a microcosm of our province – and workers – in crisis.
“Workplace violence on the TTC is community violence for everyone,” says Andria Babbington, President of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council. “To fix this, workers and community need to be part of the solution.”
Marvin Alfred, President of ATU Local 113, points directly at the lack of public spaces, housing, and services available to many people, which in turn directs desperate people into spaces not intended to be their homes, their living rooms, their washrooms. He says, “It’s no surprise that altercations between community members are increasing in public spaces. Our systems are strained and the public is strained.”
Alfred added, “We need action. It’s not enough to have elected officials and TTC management say safety is a priority. We need to see how they are making it a top-of-mind issue.”
John Di Nino, President of ATU Canada, has called for a national task force to tackle violence on public transit with all levels of government, and transit agencies. The union has asked for an emergency meeting on February 9th, 2023, of all parties involved.
Di Nino said, “The levels of violence on our transit systems is unacceptable. We need action, and that starts with a conversation between municipal, provincial and national leaders, and transit agencies. ATU Canada is prepared to spearhead the conversation. We can’t wait another week before another worker or member of the public is injured, or worse.” Di Nino added all levels of government must sit down with leaders of Canada’s largest transit union (ATU) to come up with an effective, long-term solution in short order, one that protects workers and that addresses the root causes of the violence.
Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) President, Bea Bruske said, “We know that transit workers care about their riders and customers, many of whom are also workers getting to and from their jobs. We join them in demanding that transit is safe, welcoming and efficient for the hundreds of thousands of people who use transit every day. Canada’s unions are calling on governments, elected officials, and agencies to sit down with their workers and hammer out solutions and investments that will keep transit safe for users and workers.”
Transit systems are transit workers’ workplaces. And every worker has a right to a workplace free of violence and harassment, or the threat of it.