One of our bus driver members told Channel Nine news last week that she feared being killed for doing nothing more than her job.
At 11pm on 12 October Lucy was driving the 902 orbital Chelsea to Airport West service down Main Road, Eltham, when some coward approached her from behind and launched an unprovoked, sustained and frenzied attack on the 57-year-old as she sat defenceless behind-the-wheel.
Despite receiving blow after blow, being spat on and unable to defend herself, Lucy was able to stop the bus from ploughing into innocent pedestrians and oncoming or other traffic. A passenger was eventually able to distract the assailant for long enough for Lucy to gain control of the bus and the attacker simply walked off into the night. Real man.
Sadly, Lucy is just the latest victim. Since 2011 there have been 102 officially-recorded physical assaults and 33 verbal attacks on drivers piloting buses in Melbourne carrying schoolchildren, the elderly and every type of commuter in-between. Our information is that these figures may, in fact, reflect less than a third of all actual assaults during that time with most victims – for one reason or another – deciding not to make an official complaint.
We say enough is enough and have decided to ramp-up our bus driver safety campaign – led by Senior Organiser Mike McNess and organisers Bob Lean and Imran Malik – that has been happening behind-the-scenes for several years. The Bus Association of Victoria (BAV) and a number of bus operators have recently produced notices or written directly to the TWU, supporting our approach to bus driver safety.
Compelling evidence exists linking the introduction of the tap-on cashless MYKI system into all Melbourne buses and a commensurate surge in fare evasion and attacks on drivers. MYKI was meant to be a cashless system but bus drivers continue to sell and top-up passenger Myki accounts. In a recent discussion with the TWU, government representatives were surprised to learn bus drivers still conduct these financial transactions. Train and tram drivers do not.
A further meeting is scheduled with the State Government, this time for next Wednesday at Parliament House, at which we will talk about removing MYKI transaction responsibilities from our members, along with any onus for them to request passengers touch-on Myki. A solution previously presented to Public Transport Victoria (PTV) is the use of voice-over systems to remind passengers of their obligation and potential penalties and additional MYKI top-up devices away from buses.
Further issues to be discussed are the complete roll-out of security barriers, in particular fully-enclosed protective barriers. We congratulate those operators who are leading the way in the installation of driver security screens and barriers, but implementation and finalisation of the security barrier program needs to be accelerated and the barrier should become a mandatory requirement for obtaining a PTV contract for new vehicles and funding made available to retro-fit existing fleets.
We will also speak about the obvious need for Authorised Officer’s to be placed on the bus network to dissuade against attacks on drivers and mandatory sentencing introduced for those who do attack bus drivers to mirror laws already in place in Victoria designed to protect ambulance officers and paramedics.
At the moment Lucy is still haunted by the attack she suffered and believes she may not be able to return to the job she loves. She also can only see this crisis in the bus industry getting worse and believes some poor driver could soon be killed during, or as a consequence of, a physical altercation. Sadly, we can only agree. SENSELESS, COWARDLY AND UNPROVOKED PHYSICAL ASSAULTS ON BUS DRIVERS MUST STOP.
Bus drivers deserve our respect and protection, if you wish to support bus driver safety and are not a TWU member, JOIN NOW – 1300 727 614.