Griev­ing tran­sit work­ers call for safety im­prove­ments

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - STEVE LAM­BERT

WINNIPEG — Hun­dreds of tran­sit work­ers ral­lied out­side Winnipeg city hall Fri­day to de­mand safety im­prove­ments fol­low­ing the killing of one of their col­leagues.

“This is not a new is­sue,” John Cal­la­han, pres­i­dent of the bus driv­ers’ union lo­cal, told the crowd. “We’ve been talk­ing about this for the past three years.

“Time and time again — as­sault after as­sault after as­sault. What have we got­ten? Lip ser­vice.”

The tran­sit work­ers also marched to the mid­dle of the city’s busiest in­ter­sec­tion at Portage Av­enue and Main Street and formed a large square. Some car­ried signs that read “One life is too many.”

The rally came three days after Irvine Jubal Fraser, 58, was stabbed to death at the end of his late-night route. Po­lice said Fraser re­peat­edly told a pas­sen­ger to get off the bus be­cause it was the end of the line, and the pas­sen­ger at­tacked him.

Brian Kyle Thomas, 22, has been charged with sec­ond-de­gree mur­der.

Fraser ’s brother, Dean, fought back tears as he told the crowd Fraser loved driv­ing buses.

“He was taken from us do­ing what he loved,” he said.

“You couldn’t see Jubal with­out a smile on his f ace and I’m sure he’s smil­ing down on you guys right now for your sup­port.”

Fraser’s widow was hugged and com­forted by many in the crowd. She did not speak at the rally.

Fraser ’s death is the first time a Winnipeg tran­sit driver was fa­tally as­saulted on the job. City of­fi­cials have beefed up se­cu­rity mea­sures in re­cent years by in­stalling cam­eras on buses and hav­ing po­lice ride some routes on oc­ca­sion.

But the Amal­ga­mated Tran­sit Union is call­ing for more, in­clud­ing emer­gency exit doors for driv­ers and a ded­i­cated tran­sit se­cu­rity force.

It also wants pop-up shields that can sep­a­rate driv­ers from dan­ger- ous pas­sen­gers. “All this ex­ists in Europe,” Cal­la­han said.

The union also wants bus driv­ers to be re­lieved of the task of col­lect­ing f ares. Most al­ter­ca­tions stem from a dispute over fares, Cal­la­han said.

Sta­tis­tics re­leased by the union show there were 60 as­saults on Winnipeg tran­sit driv­ers in 2015, a jump of 54 per cent from the pre­vi­ous year.

The num­ber went down to 45 as­saults in 2016. Cal­la­han said that’s partly due to un­der­cover of­fi­cers who started rid­ing buses that year and in­ter­vened in some dis­putes.

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