Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ottawa deserves better


OCTranspo’s bus driver’s union, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 (ATU) has shown its continual contempt and disrespect for Ottawa residents in the face of several incidents involving drivers.

It is disappointing to have such an inefficient, disrespectful bus service in Ottawa of all places, our nation’s capital where laws that form our society and identity are debated and passed.

Back in February a driver berated a passenger for smelling of smoke, and hurled a barrage of insults at him.  That driver then turned to another passenger and verbally accosted her for separate issues.  The union’s response wasn’t “we’re sorry” or “this driver will be dealt with.”  Instead, they outrageously rebutted “well video cameras are not allowed on buses.”

Excuse me?  You have specific evidence of a driver abusing his passengers, and your response is to attack the person who videotaped the incident?

This same appalling behaviour on behalf of the union continued last week.  A driver made news for screaming at a mentally handicapped passenger, telling him to “shut the f—k up!” and saying that he would assault the passenger if he did not get off the bus.

The driver has luckily been terminated, but disgusting is the response from union president Garry Queale.  He said it was clearly because driving a bus is stressful.

Most recently, a driver abandoned his bus on perhaps the busiest and most vital bridge for Ottawa transit - the Mackenzie King Bridge.  This bridge sees every bus traveling to the east or west end of Ottawa along the Transitway.  Bus riders know that this bridge is backed up for hundreds of meters on a daily basis, with hundreds of buses waiting to pick up passengers.  At this specific stop is the Rideau Centre Mall and the Department of National Defence’s Headquarters, where hundreds of government workers and mall-goers sift through the long line of buses to find their ride home.

Why did the driver abandon his bus?  Because he was asked why he was running 45 minutes late.  How awful for the elderly passenger to make such an inquiry!

Again the union issued a dreadful statement.  They said that OCTranspo drivers are clearly being targeted by passengers eager to videotape any misstep, so instead of fixing the problem or interacting with passengers, drivers are supposed to avoid confrontation.

It’s no surprise that Ottawa residents are not fans of OCTranspo bus drivers.  This is the same union that stranded passengers for 53 days because they demanded higher pay and significantly increased benefits at the peak of the global economic recession.  ATU President Andre Cornellier was known for famously stating “sure, we’re inconveniencing people.  What of it?” which didn’t win the union any supporters.

The union got their wish, among several other cozy perks, so why are these drivers still so apparently stressed out?

They’re certainly not stressed about money.  OCTranspo bus drivers make a starting salary of $28 an hour, and they regularly make the Ontario sunshine list for pulling in over $100,000 a year.

Again, the union President insists they’re stressed about being bus drivers and having to make routes run on time.

OCTranspo should welcome this little thing called “accountability.”  They can expect lots more of it.