Tuesday, 29 November 2011

The Wheels on the Bus Go Boom Boom Boom

Another exciting week at the bus company.  The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that 22 year old James Perry has been arrested and charged with uttering threats after he allegedly made a comment on Facebook about blowing up 1500 St. Laurent. "Prepare to have your headquarters blown the f--- up." is the quote attributed to the young man. This is no doubt more a case of juxtaposition than an actual threat, as recent events seem to have the entire company looking for a reason to stick up for one another. When placed alongside the recent YouTube embarrassments, the punch in the face, the berating bus driver, the cellphone video, the strike threat and the open letter... all this stuff seems related. I don't think it is.  If we arrested every person who made a statement like this, our jails would look like, well... our buses.


Mayor Jim Watson sprung into action with yet another press release. Nothing to see here, everything's fine, move along, move along...

In all honesty, things have been 'normal' for awhile. The Pie-Hole crisis aside, things have been running pretty much the way they always run. It seems to me that every time the economy takes a hit, bus drivers get assaulted more frequently. Detroit Bus Drivers just returned from a strike over assaults. That's right, a strike. It happens everywhere. In Detroit's case, the media explains it differently.  It just so happens that major changes to life conditions, and major changes to service such as what happened here in Ottawa (coupled with a bad relationship stemming from the strike) always seem to produce more assaults on front line workers.

Even the morale issue has been overblown at the company. There is a hard, static line between the truly unhappy drivers and the happy drivers. We have long time drivers who have lost their straight runs after years of routine, and we have a fresh new crop of drivers whose work has actually improved since the city won the right to assemble split shifts. As the demographic shifts from the old regime to the new, morale will improve.

This connecting of dots being made between morale, the city and the union, and assaults on drivers... it's an over-complicated solution looking for a problem. We're dangling that sword of Damocles in the place where Occam's razor would be better suited.

Drivers are not yelling at or being rude to managers. Managers are not punching drivers in the face. Drivers are not being arrested for threatening to blow up 1500 St. Laurent. Managers are not trying to capture drivers on cellphones, to be publicly flogged on YouTube.

Our disconnect is with passengers. Managers have hurt customers with cuts to service. Drivers have hurt customers with rude behavior and a crippling strike. Passengers are filming drivers, and in some cases assaulting drivers. A passenger threatened to blow up OC headquarters. Passengers are hurting drivers by punching them. Why are we wasting so much time on union vs city bullshit?

The meeting that needs to occur, to heal us all, is between our passengers and our transit company.

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