British Columbia

Union calls for action after multiple recent assaults on B.C. bus drivers

Two separate incidents on Kelowna buses over the weekend are raising concerns for the union that represents drivers in the Okanagan.

Shielded drivers seats coming to B.C. by 2022, B.C. Transit says

Two attacks on bus drivers in one weekend have prompted the transit union in Kelowna to call for action on violence against bus drivers. (City of Kelowna)

A string of attacks on B.C. buses over the past week is raising concerns for the unions that represents drivers.

On March 22, a driver in Kelowna was assaulted by a passenger he had just asked to get off the bus. The altercation took a turn for the worse, according to the union president, when the driver was knocked out and the bus continued moving on a busy road until it hit a concrete barrier.

The driver suffered a concussion and doesn't remember the incident.

Two days later, another bus driver in Kelowna was punched by a man who the driver said was drunk and who he had asked to get off his bus.

Earlier in the week, on Thursday, a driver was attacked in Victoria while reportedly trying to stop an altercation between two people.

"We are very concerned about the escalation in some of these assaults," said Ben Williams, president of Unifor 333 — the union that represents B.C. Transit drivers in Greater Victoria.

"These are the ones that go to the public, when the operators suffer significant injuries."

B.C. Transit has just announced it will be moving forward with shields to separate drivers from the public and that all buses provincewide will have those shields by 2022.

"We expect new buses delivered late this year to have the full driver door installed and will retrofit approximately 650 buses in our current fleet," B.C. Transit said in an emailed statement to CBC.

"Buses to be replaced within two years will not have the full driver door installed. Instead, the replacement bus will be delivered with the full driver door installed."

"I'm hoping they can get it done sooner," said Scott Lovell, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1722.  

"I think three years is a little bit too long, especially since they've known about this for awhile."

Lovell said the union has approached B.C. Transit multiple times, offering several different designs for the shields, but the corporation wanted to create its own design.

"I like the design," Lovell told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. "But we probably should've had a decision prior to now, at least six to eight months ago."

A task force meeting is being held March 26 for members of the union and B.C. Transit to discuss how to speed up the process of adding shields to all buses.

With files from Daybreak South and On The Island

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