Toronto marks first Transit Worker Assault Awareness Day

Dec. 20, 2021
The city and transit stakeholders used the day to raise awareness surrounding assaults of transit workers and their right to have a safe and healthy work environment.

The city of Toronto, Ontario and its transit stakeholders, including transit provider Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, which represents approximately 12,000 TTC workers, marked the first Transit Worker Assault Awareness Day on Dec. 17.

In his formal proclamation for the day, Mayor Tory noted a 12 percent increase in TTC operator assaults between July and September 2020 compared to the same timeframe in 2019. The proclamation said operators “deserve to be treated with respect by the public” and the day is meant to raise awareness about workers’ rights to a safety and healthy work environment.

“Throughout the pandemic, TTC drivers have been on the frontlines getting residents to the places they need to go. While working hard to help residents get to and from work, school and around the city, they have been experiencing an increase in assaults on the job. Everyone in our city deserves a healthy and safe work environment – by proclaiming today as Transit Worker Assault Awareness Day we are not only raising awareness around this issue but acknowledging the work that we need to do to bring an end to it. I encourage residents to join us in creating a safe and healthy work environment for our TTC workers,” said Mayor Tory.

TTC says there were 412 reported assaults on employees in 2019. That number rose to 469 in 2020 and reached 243 in the first half of 2021. ATU Local 113 says there have been 363 assaults as of Nov. 23, 2021. To mark the day and the concerns with operator safety, TTC workers wore buttons with the number 363+ on them.

"With assaults on TTC workers continuing to rise in 2021, this issue is of great concern for our members who have heroically served Toronto throughout the pandemic. Like everyone, Toronto's transit workers should always feel comfortable and safe while on the job. Transit Worker Assault Awareness Day is an important step, but we must move beyond this day to come up with solutions to address this worsening problem," said Carlos Santos, president of ATU Local 113.

In early 2021, TTC developed an action plan to mitigate worker assaults that included:

  • Integrating social service resources in the Special Constable Service unit to assist under-housed individuals and people in crisis.
  • Implementing a customer campaign focused on respecting TTC employees and keeping them safe.
  • Delivering an operator-focused campaign reminding employees what to do if confronted by a customer.
  • Enhancing protective screens for bus operators and mandating their use.

TTC rolled out an internal campaign to remind employees of the plan and other supportive actions being implemented, such as pursuing criminal prosecution against those charged with criminal acts against employees, sharing video and photos of attackers with police, providing trauma supports through various programs and reminding operators not to engage in fare disputes.

“Safety of our employees and customers is paramount to all we do at the TTC. We want our employees to know that we are there for them and we want them to feel comfortable coming forward and telling us about what they are facing on the frontline,” said TTC CEO Rick Leary. “I want to thank all our employees for the excellent work they do. We know that COVID-19 has created some unique situations and made some existing challenges more pronounced – but we are here to help.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.