When you think of stressful jobs, occupations
like soldiers and policing likely come to mind.
But a new report suggests being a
TTC driver is just as
anxiety-inducing, with almost 200 bus, streetcar and subway operators suffering
from same the kind of severe stress as survivors of combat and natural
Among the kinds of abuse transit drivers have faced over
the years: being shot at with an air rifle, punched, and head-butted. In the
five years leading up to 2005 at least 181 drivers claimed post-traumatic
stress disorder, a rate four times that of Toronto police officers.
Employees say there is no shortage of horror stories.
"The first suicide I had was many years ago," recalls
subway driver Bryan Tollefson, who now suffers from post-traumatic stress,
something he links to his years with the transit service. "I didn't think it
bothered me at the time, but I think must've affected [me] somewhat."
On average employees missed about 49 days of work, and the
traumatized drivers missed close to 9,000 workdays in all. Others missed time
for anxiety and depression. Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated
Transit Union Local 113, said operators are put in a difficult position.
"I would much rather be a civilian on the street and have
someone, you know, verbally abusing me or potentially assaulting me because I'm
going to react as an individual and I'm going to protect myself," he said.
"Our operators are in a very, very difficult situation
when they've got the uniform on. We've had members that have actually been
disciplined for defending themselves. And that's where the TTC needs to
step in and be a little more understanding to the situations our members find
TTC Chair Adam Giambrone agrees there should be
compensation for injured workers.
"This is a whole process when we have 9,000 unionized
employees. We have to figure out what this means," he said. "When people are
injured, I mean certainly city workers, police officers, there's an expectation
that if it's not their fault, which it isn't, that they should be compensated
Operators say that between fare hikes, overcrowded
vehicles, and schedule problems, the transit-riding public can be angry and
frustrated at times. In 2006 the number of reported crimes on Toronto Transit
Commission property jumped 24 per cent, from 2,744 to 3,415. On average it's
estimated a driver is assaulted once a day.
The cash-strapped TTC is working to make its vehicles
safer for drivers, with plans to install plastic shields on buses and
streetcars. It has already put more security cameras on buses, streetcars and
subways in an attempt to deter such attacks from taking place.
"When they say they're going to do better ... I don't
know how they can do better," Tollefson asked. "There's always the question of
money, isn't there?
And in a sad and ironic turn of events Monday, a TTC bus
driver was attacked on Donlands, north of the Danforth. He's wasn't seriously
hurt, and one of three suspects is in custody.