Winnipeg Transit workers elect new union president

The union representing Winnipeg Transit workers has a new president going into 2023, as calls to prevent increasing attacks on bus passengers and operators grow. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

Winnipeg’s transit union has a new president going into 2023, as calls to prevent increasing attacks on bus passengers and operators grow.

Chris Scott is the new president of ATU Local 1505, taking over from former president Romeo Ignacio. Scott has been a union rep for over 20 years and joined the force as a bus operator in 1999.

Scott says he has his work cut out for him. His first point of order is to re-negotiate the union’s contract with the City of Winnipeg, which is set to expire on Jan. 7.

“We are putting the final touches on our initial set of proposals and I’m looking forward to reaching out to the city to start setting out some dates for negotiations,” said Scott.

Scott has spoken to several transit operators who have outlined several issues. The union has been keeping track of the number of assaults on operators over the last few years.

In 2021, Scott says there were 90 operators assaulted. Between Jan. and Dec. 12, 2022, that number rose to 126 incidents, which included verbal threats, spitting, punching, and assaults with weapons.

“Safety is a huge sticking point. It’s the right of every employee to feel safe in the workplace,” explained Scott. “It’ll be good to get the new perspectives in place and have some good discussions on how to expedite some of these measures.”

The service continues to see an increase in operator absenteeism.  Due to all the safety concerns, Scott says the union is having a hard time recruiting and maintaining drivers.

“Those that are off on medical leave for various reasons is a result of the stressful conditions of the job. If we can address the safety issues, that may go a long way in assisting the city with keeping people actively working.”

Due to the lack of drivers in Winnipeg Transit, Scott also wants to see a more reliable bus schedule in Winnipeg. He says bus drivers are having a hard time meeting their schedules.

“Over the years that I have been here, I have seen the schedules for the operators get faster and faster. It is to the point now where the public is starting to see their buses run later and later.”

Scott says he is hoping to meet with Mayor Scott Gillingham soon to discuss all the issues operators and transit workers are facing. He says he is up for the challenge.

“We are going to fight our hardest to make sure all your issues are addressed, the issues of the membership and which go hand in hand with the issues of the public.” 

Scott’s term as president will last for three years.

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