News | STM drivers call for better safety on the job

Union calls for cameras to be installed on late night buses

In a campaign that started September 2, bus drivers of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) began wearing t-shirts stating “notre sécurité, votre sécurité” (“our security, your security”), in support of their campaign to shed light on the increasing number of attacks on late night bus routes this year.

STM bus drivers are unionized under the Syndicat des chauffeurs d’autobus de la STM, which is a part of the larger Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique (SCFP). The union’s campaign aims to pressure their employer into installing cameras in buses across the city to provide for a safer service at night.

Stéphane Lachance, the main spokesperson for the union, told The Daily in French, “Installing cameras in buses is a way of preventing assaults from occurring. The goal is to install them in all buses that circulate after 11 p.m. since all attacks take place after that time.”

In 2006, the STM initiated the Sécuribus program in an effort to provide better safety for bus drivers and their clients. One of the promised measures to prevent assaults included cameras in buses.

Despite the STM’s efforts, Lachance was skeptical of the program. “The [Sécuribus] program did not diminish the number of assaults on buses.” He continued, “In fact, in 2013, we are headed towards a total of 300 attacks, which is huge.”

A highly publicized attack on April 24 became one of the most significant events leading up to the movement, according to Lachance. The Service de la police de la ville de Montréal’s (SPVM) media relations communication officer, Anna-Claude Poulin, revealed a detailed report of the incident to The Daily. “Arriving at the corner of Fairmount Avenue, the driver [of the 363 bus] passes the bus stop’s shelter in which the three men were standing and stops a few feet away from them. The three men, dissatisfied with the bus driver’s conduct, get on the bus and insult him.”

After insulting the driver, the men proceeded to physically assault him.

Despite cameras already installed on that particular bus, Lachance said there is a long way to go.

“Currently, the STM has equipped 900 out of 1,600 buses with cameras. And they simply need to install cameras in 500 of the remaining buses to provide for a safer service at night.”

“The bus driver who had gotten assaulted on that night was not able to go back to work again,” Lachance continued. “Also, the cameras allowed [us] to catch and arrest the attackers. You can now understand the effectiveness of [having] a camera [in a bus at night].”

The accompanying YouTube video of the assault “Le SPVM recherche trois suspects qui ont agressé un chauffeur d’autobus,” with almost 60,000 total views, catalogued the incident.

According to Lachance, the union is fighting for more than just the safety of its bus drivers;  the safety of the public is of primary concern as well. “If the bus drivers are safe, the passengers of their bus will also be safe.”

The union is adamant that it will continue with its movement for as long as necessary. “As long as all the buses of the STM are not equipped with cameras, the bus drivers will continue to wear the t-shirt that denounce[s] the fact that there are no cameras present in the buses for [the safety of] the employees and the citizens,” said Lachance.

Lachance placed the blame on the STM. “If they [the STM] would have installed cameras in the night buses to ensure the security of the bus drivers and their passengers, we would not have begun this strike.” He also remarked, “They won’t do anything about it. It is a lack of willingness on their part.”

The SPVM declined to comment on the union’s campaign to prevent violence against STM bus drivers.