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Punched, kicked, spat on: Saskatoon Transit workers call for help after violent assaults

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The union representing the city’s bus drivers says violence against transit workers is out of control.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 615 and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) say they want something done to protect transit employees.

The city says plans have been put into place to address the threat to worker safety, but workers say it can’t come soon enough.

For lifetime transit rider Elizabeth Dyck, taking the bus has been her sole means of transportation for most of her life, and it’s troubling to her how safety has changed over the years.

“The last 10 years have been very different, there’s fighting on the bus, people are not paying their fares, as you can see people aren’t respecting the transit houses,” Dyck told CTV News.

Elizabeth Dyck has been a lifetime transit rider. (Carla Shynkaruk / CTV News)

The ATU and SFL released a letter Tuesday morning because of a recent surge in violent events where drivers were punched, kicked, and spat on.

“As a matter of fact, last night we had another assault on one of our drivers. He was asked a simple question, answered it and the passenger reached around the barrier and punched him in the face,” said Darcy Pederson, president of the ATU Local 615.

According to Pederson, drivers have also seen knives and even guns brought onto busses.

In a statement to CTV News, the city acknowledged there have been recent issues.

“The transit administration acknowledges there recently were a number of negative interactions and they take them seriously. Several initiatives have been introduced in the last 12 months to improve safety for employees and the public in transit spaces,” the statement said.

“Processes are also in place to support staff after incidents occur.”

Pederson has his own ideas about how to tackle the problem.

“I think we can clean up the terminal, get better cameras, getting more enforcement officer would be good. Someone who can enforce the rules,” he said.

City administration said more support officers have been put into place, with more on the way July 1.

Administration says negative interactions on transit is a Canada-wide issue.

This graph shows the rates of negative interactions on transit in Saskatoon since 2019:

Pederson has been a bus driver for 21 years. He says gone are the days where passenger and driver knew each other and had a positive relationship.

“You knew where they were going and now we’re in a situation where every time we pick up a passenger, we’re not sure if that passenger is going to punch us in the face or not.”

According to that statement from the city, Saskatoon Transit employees are always encouraged to call their supervisor if they are concerned for their safety and to contact the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) immediately to investigate when an incident happens. 

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