TTC union warns about staff cut in wake of Strathroy terrorism case

1Toronto transit system aiming to remove second employee from subway trains.
Two days after a possible terrorist threat put Toronto transit agencies on alert, the union representing TTC workers is calling on management to reconsider plans to remove guards from subway trains.
In a news release Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, suggested that eliminating the guards would make passengers less safe.
Kinnear noted that in response to the potential threat on Wednesday, TTC management issued a “see something, say something” notice to workers, advising them to be vigilant. “By eliminating the subway guards, however, there will be far fewer trained observers who can ‘see something’ or who can respond to passenger alarms from inside the trains. How very reassuring that must be to the 1.8 million TTC passengers per day,” Kinnear said.
“While we do not know that the TTC was a specific target (of Wednesday’s threat), we do know that transportation is a favoured terror target. We need more, not fewer layers of security for the TTC.”
TTC subways are currently operated by two-person crews consisting of a driver and a guard. The guards typically ride in the second-to-last car on older subway trains, and in the rear cab of newer Toronto Rocket models. They have no special security training but are responsible for opening and closing train doors, and watching for obstructions at track level.
The TTC is moving toward one-person train operation, which would eliminate the guard position. Instead, the driver would operate the doors and monitor platform activity with the help of four CCTV cameras that would be installed on the station platform and transmit video to inside the operator’s cab.
In October, the TTC intends to start testing one-person operation on Line 4 (Sheppard). If it proves successful, guards will also be taken off of Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) subways. A decision has yet to be made about Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth), according to a commission report published in July.
Removing guards from Line 1 and Line 4 would allow the commission to reduce its complement of subway operators, who earn an average salary of $103,400 a year, from 389 to 209. That would translate into annual savings of $18.6 million for the TTC, which is facing a major budget crunch in 2017.
TTC spokesman Brad Ross rejected the union’s suggestion that removing the guards would make the transit system less safe. He pointed out that the TTC’s Scarborough RT has had one-person operation since 1985, and subways in cities like London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Bangkok, and Mexico City are operated by a single worker.
He said that a new station-management policy the agency instituted in 2013has increased the number of employees present in subway stations, and there will be even more workers in the public areas of stations once the Presto automatic fare-card system is fully implemented and collectors are moved out of ticket booths.
“The system is incredibly safe,” he said.
On Wednesday, law enforcement alerted the TTC, as well as the Greater Toronto Airport Authority and Metrolinx, to a potential terror threat. Later that day, police intercepted and killed 24-year-old Aaron Driver as he left a residence in Strathroy, Ont., about 195 km southwest of Toronto.
The RCMP said he intended to attack a major urban centre during rush hour.

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