It seems that the big news story in the city this week is about not one, but two TTC collection booth workers and how they were both photographed while being asleep on the job.
The National Post reports:
The Amalgamated Transit Union says it is ‘‘discouraging’’ that TTC riders did not check on the well-being of a collector at the centre of a media firestorm after he was photographed apparently asleep on the job.
The collector was photographed leaning back in his chair, eyes closed, mouth open and hands folded on his stomach at 9:46 p.m. on Jan. 9 by rider Jason Wieler. Mr. Wieler posted the photo to Twitter yesterday, and it was quickly picked up, and commented upon, by many media outlets.
TTC officials have said they are concerned, and investigating. In a press release, the TTC’s union took a slightly different approach. Here is the release:
ATU 113 Statement on picture of TTC Collector
TORONTO, Jan. 22 /CNW/ – The following statement is issued by Bob Kinnear, President of ATU Local 113, which represents Operating and Maintenance employees of the Toronto Transit Commission:
There have been many media enquires about a picture taken at 10:00 p.m. on January 9 of a TTC Collector described as “sleeping” in the booth.
The TTC is conducting an enquiry on this and until this is completed the union will have no comment on the matter except this:
Whatever the outcome of the enquiry, it is very discouraging that the picture taker and, apparently, other customers, made no attempt to determine if there was anything wrong with this TTC employee. A simple knock on the glass might have determined if the Collector was, in fact, asleep, or whether he was unconscious as a result of some medical problem. The reports that passengers were laughing at him as they passed by the booth makes this even more disturbing.
The union will comment further at an appropriate time.
A TTC union reacted to the media firestorm over a napping collector Friday by criticizing the rider who took the photo, even as a second photograph of another sleeping TTC collector emerged.
“It is very discouraging that the picture taker and, apparently, other customers, made no attempt to determine if there was anything wrong with this TTC employee,” said Bob Kinnear, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
A Twitter user snapped the photo two weeks ago around 10 p.m. at McCowan station. The collector is shown leaning back in his chair, with his hands folded on his stomach, eyes closed and mouth slightly open. The photo, and many copycats, were plastered across the Internet today.
A source said that the man pictured is George Robitaille, a veteran TTC collector who suffers from a medical condition and has been employed by the transit commission for about three decades.
The nature of Mr. Robitaille’s medical issue was unclear, but the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 said about 75% of collectors are put in that position for medical reasons. The TTC could not confirm the number, though spokesman Brad Ross acknowledged many collectors are “transitioning” back to their regular duties after illness or injury.
Jason Wieler, who took the photo and quickly posted it online, said a small group spent several minutes gathered around the collector’s booth, laughing and snapping pictures as the collector slept.
Said Mr. Kinnear: “A simple knock on the glass might have determined if the collector was, in fact, asleep, or whether he was unconscious as a result of some medical problem. The reports that passengers were laughing at him as they passed by the booth makes this even more disturbing.”
Union spokesman Bill Reno noted the media attention on this incident has been disproportionate, blaming a “tabloid world.”
The union says it received more calls on this issue than it did on the 2005 shooting of a Scarborough bus driver.
The media firestorm has been fed by a second photo of a sleeping TTC collector, which was obtained by Global News on Friday. In it, the ticket taker is shown leaning back in his chair as he snoozes at King station around 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 12.
“I’m not out to get anyone fired,” said Scott Dagostino, who took that photograph. He says he forwarded it to Councillor Adam Giambrone, chair of the TTC, because it is emblematic of a larger problem.
“It’s not about one collector’s behaviour. After the fare hike, the token embargo… what kind of message does that send out?” Mr. Dagostino asked.
Mr. Giambrone said he has asked management to investigate the facts in Mr. Robitaille’s case.
“Obviously behaviour like sleeping on the job is not tolerated at the TTC, nor would it be at any place of work,” Mr. Giambrone said.
Mr. Ross said the TTC will arrange to speak with the ticket collector “to ascertain what happened and take any appropriate action based on the information we gather.” The maximum penalty would be termination, he said, but the TTC is “not even close to having any kind of decision on that.”
Meanwhile, the photos are stirring public reactions ranging from amusement, to sympathy, to outrage that a public employee would apparently neglect his responsibilities so soon after the latest TTC fare hike.
At McCowan station this afternoon, passengers slowly trickled in and out as the on-duty ticket collector — awake and alert — declined to comment on his colleague’s newfound notoriety.
Sandra, a young rider who did not give a last name, denounced the sleeping collector’s behaviour as “pretty irresponsible,” while Ron Louie seemed relatively unfazed.
“It’s probably a boring job, so I kind of sympathize with him,” Mr. Louie said.
Now I understand that this is scandalous in the face of the recent fare hike. I get it that this represents to the people of Toronto another fat cat public employee sitting on his rear and not earning his pay. It’s the stigma that goes along with public employees and these fellows are fueling.
But let me say that I can sort of sympathize with these poor men, having had a job where I had to be alert on the job and at the same time completely alone.
It’s dull and it’s boring. Add into that things like not getting a good nights sleep, perhaps a cold or some other issue has made it so that a peaceful rest isn’t attained, mix in with that the fact that they have nothing to do but sit there and watch folks throw money into the slot, and sell a few tickets or token here and there and it creates a recipe for drowsy behaviour.
Can they get up and walk around to help keep themselves awake as I used to do at my job? I don’t think so. They are trapped in that ‘caged in‘ area. Can they bring a radio or something to keep themselves awake, to stimulate their brains? Is there some plan put in place to keep these collection agents alert? Can they call someone to relieve them so they can take a quick jaunt around the station to shake things up and wake themselves up if they are feeling drowsy?
I know that they shouldn’t be sleeping on the job, but lets face it folks, is there anyone out there who hasn’t felt a little drowsy at work? Anyone who hasn’t had to do something to wake themselves up? Now what if you couldn’t do those things, you were trapped at your desk until the end of your shift, would you have been able to keep your eyes open?
I know I wouldn’t!
Now, with at least eight pedestrians killed in our fair city, in as little as two weeks, by motor vehicles and the lack of coverage I’ve seen on that while this blasted TTC story has been everywhere, I have to wonder if the media in Toronto isn’t catering to a tabloid kind of reporting, which is the exact reason I’m shying away from the media. If I want sensationalist style news, I’ll turn on ET Canada or TMZ, thanks!