July 10, 2019 11:12 am

Union calls for changes to protect operators in wake of Hamilton GO bus driver assault

Hamilton police have arrested a suspect after a Go bus driver was assaulted near Jackson Square.

Don Mitchell / Global News

The president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Canada is calling for changes after a GO bus driver was assaulted in downtown Hamilton.

The 74-year-old operator, who’s been on the job for decades, was attacked Tuesday afternoon after the bus had stopped on King Street West in front of Jackson Square.

The victim suffered head injuries and was taken to hospital while the suspect was arrested by Hamilton police.

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READ MORE: Bus driver assaulted by passenger in downtown Hamilton, GO Transit says

ATU Canada president John Di Nino is calling for all levels of government to pass a Canadian version of the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Safety Act.

“As he has done for the past 30 years, an ATU operator working for GO Transit pulled up to a bus stop, except this time a passenger unleashed a barrage of punches and kicks on him, resulting in hospitalization,” said Di Nino. “Twenty-two other passengers had to witness this traumatic assault.”

Di Nino says the measure would “identify and assess the risk of violence on each and every transit system in Canada and approve concrete measures to mitigate violence.”

A similar bill that is currently in the United States Congress calls for assault mitigation infrastructure, de-escalation training, modifying buses to address blind spots and ergonomic issues, and a national database to track assaults on operators and pedestrians.

“Sadly, violence against passengers and operators is so commonplace,” said Di Nino. “In the last four years, we have seen a fatal stabbing in Winnipeg against an operator; a fatal stabbing in Tampa, Florida; a stabbing in Edmonton against an operator; and over 4,000 sexual assaults against passengers.”

READ MORE: City buses to soon live-stream emergency situations back to Winnipeg Transit Control Centre

Di Nino calls it “a national crisis that Ottawa should be addressing.”

“Politicians go to work and expect to leave their office alive at the end of the day. Transit professionals do not have that luxury. Ottawa must take action now,” argued Di Nino.

Di Nino predicts incidents of fare disputes and violence against operators will increase “as provincial governments implement operating budget austerity in public transit.”

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