On the first-ever National Day of Respect for Public Transport Workers, RTBU National President Phil Altieri gives a heart-felt explanation of why this landmark day is so important for RTBU members across the country.
Public transport workers have been enduring an increasing number of abusive, violent attacks right across Australia.
2016 has seen an alarming increase of this totally unacceptable, unwarranted aggressive anti-social behaviour against our hard working members, who are simply doing their jobs.
Front line members such as Drivers, Authorised Officers, Customer Service Employees, Station Staff, Maintenance and Infrastructure Workers and other have experienced varying degrees of violent behaviour against them.
The RTBU has received numerous complaints from our members across various classifications on all modes of public transport. The nature of these complaints goes to verbal abuse, threats to property and life, being spat on, being assaulted, just to name a few.
At the top of the spectrum we have witnessed the senseless, horrific event just recently of one of our members was killed while driving his Brisbane City Council bus in Moorooka (Brisbane). Manmeet Sharma was simply doing his job when he was set alight by a passenger at a bus stop, resulting in his tragic death.
Enough is Enough
Public Transport Workers will no longer endure this totally unacceptable, unwarranted behaviour. Public transport vehicles, tram and bus stops, train stations, and indeed all public transport infrastructure are our places of work. When people are catching public transport they are in our office, and it must be respected as such. Nobody wants to be violated in their office. While the majority of public transport commuters and the general public appreciate and respect our workplace, there is an increasing element of commuters and general public behaving in a totally unacceptable manner.
This must not be tolerated by anybody - one assault is one too many.
The RTBU and TWU have embarked on a national campaign demanding that governments, authorities, regulators, employers and the public address this very serious safety issue facing public transport workers.
The national campaign commences today, Wednesday 9 November 2016, with this day being declared a National Day of Respect for all public transport workers across Australia. We commenced by asking commuters to say “thank you” to their Tram Driver, Bus Driver, Train Driver, Taxi Driver, AO, CSE, Station Staff, Maintenance/Infrastructure Workers and indeed all public transport workers.
And of course, this day was also to pay our respect to our fallen murdered comrade in Queensland.
Manmeet's Death Must Not BeIn Vain
As a first step we must bring awareness to all concerned and we must not let our member's tragic death be in vain. This type of incident must not be allowed to happen again.
We must engage all stakeholders demanding that much better safety solutions be developed and implemented. We need to have a robust debate about possible solutions, including things like:
- protective shields for buses and taxis;
- correct safe team numbers for AOs, CSEs, and Station Staff;
- legislating much heavier penalties against perpetrators;
- and other measures that can make public transport safer for both workers and passengers.
Once we are clear about those safety solutions we must again engage stakeholders with a view to implementing these safety solutions. If the stakeholders do not accept our recommendations, or are not serious about making the necessary changes, then we must unite as public transport workers and ramp up our national campaign to drive these absolutely necessary changes home. Employers have a legal obligation and an absolute duty of care to provide a safe and healthy work place, for their employees.
The fact that hundreds upon hundreds of these incidents are occurring across our public transport systems against our members, who are simply doing their job, must be an absolute priority for our union, and for our community.
United we stand, divided we fall.