Manitoba

Winnipeg to explore giving transit supervisors the power to detain passengers

Winnipeg will look into giving transit supervisors the power to detain people causing disturbances on buses.

Public works committee also approves plan to install driver safety shields on all buses

Public works chair Matt Allard (St. Boniface) wants the city to explore giving transit supervisors the power to detain people. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg will look into giving transit inspectors the power to detain people causing disturbances on buses.

City council's public works committee voted Tuesday to approve a motion to explore giving transit supervisors more powers. Right now, supervisors cannot detain or even touch people committing offences on buses.

St. Boniface Coun. Matt Allard, who chairs the public works committee, made the motion in response to concerns expressed by transit drivers and their union.

The city has to determine the regulatory and labour implications of the change, Allard told the committee.

City officials will have six months to consider the idea.

Aleem Chaudhary, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, said right now, transit inspectors can't even touch, let alone apprehend, problem passengers.

"Our operators laugh at it, unfortunately. But they deserve training. If they had proper training and they were properly trained, they would be an asset," he said.

Chaudhary said he would still prefer police on buses.

Maurice Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said if the city wants peace officers on buses, they ought to be police.

"I don't think that these inspectors are going to be trained properly and it's going to put them in danger. It's going to put transit drivers in greater danger and even citizens in greater danger," Sabourin said.

He also suggested entry-level police officers would be cheaper to employ on buses than transit inspectors.

Bus shield purchase moves ahead 

Council's public works committee also voted to approve a plan to install driver safety shields in all 630 Winnipeg Transit buses at a cost of $3.15 million. The city has been testing the shields, which would protect transit drivers from workplace abuse such as getting grabbed, struck, spat on or hit with beverages and other objects.

Winnipeg Transit officials told the committee it could take three years to install the shields.

ATU president Chaudhary urged the committee to install the shields as soon as possible, ideally by the middle of 2020.

The committee agreed it would be worthwhile to get the work done more quickly.

"It's embarrassing in my mind it's taken this long to get to this point," said North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, who added a stipulation to have the work done within 18 months.

The committee voted 3-1 to approve the plan, with councillors Browaty, Devi Sharma (North Kildonan) and Vivian Santos (Point Douglas) voting in favour and Allard voting in opposition.

Allard said he would prefer to see the installation timeline determined through budget discussions.

Winnipeg will look into giving transit supervisors the power to detain people causing disturbances on buses. 2:09