Unions calls for more regional security, emergency summit in wake of attacks on bus drivers

Jessica Moroney and Shannon HamptonGeraldton Guardian
Ambulance and police attended the old railway station on Chapman Road after a bus driver was allegedly assaulted.
Camera IconAmbulance and police attended the old railway station on Chapman Road after a bus driver was allegedly assaulted. Credit: Jessica Moroney/Geraldton Guardian/RegionalHUB

Unions representing bus drivers have called for more security at regional stations and an emergency summit to address the “safety crisis” in the wake of two brutal incidents, including an attack on a Geraldton bus driver.

The Transport Workers’ Union wrote to bus contractors asking for delegates, co-delegates and health and safety representatives to leave work and attend an emergency safety summit on Wednesday, January 25 after a spate of assaults.

In Geraldton last Tuesday, a 66-year-old bus driver was preparing a TransWA road coach for travel when 36-year-old Edward Charles Abbott attempted to board without a valid ticket at the old train station on Chapman Road.

Abbott pleaded guilty to striking the man, who was one year away from retiring, multiple times in the head, causing him significant facial injuries and to lose his front teeth.

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The Australian Rail, Tram and Bus Union WA branch secretary Joshua Dekuyer said the bus driver was disturbed by the attack and had asked for a heightened security presence.

“I can confirm that we have made contact with our member, who is in good spirits, but is clearly affected by the incident,” he said.

“Our member stated ‘please don’t let this matter disappear, we have been asking for security for a long time’”.

Mr Dekuyer said members were calling for guards to be posted at stations in Geraldton, Esperance, Albany and Northam.

“Our members deliver a vital service to the WA community, they do so day in, day out, with the utmost professionalism in sometimes very difficult circumstances,” the ARTBU said.

“We call on the WA State Government to assist and continue to support and ensure all our members are better protected, equipped and treated.”

Another alleged attack occurred in Victoria Park last Thursday when police say a female bus driver was spat on, kicked and had her mobile phone stolen by a 13-year-old boy before being punched in the face by a 32-year-old woman.

TWU WA branch secretary Tim Dawson said assaults put workers in “ever-increasing danger of physical harm” and expected bus operators to release employees “without hesitation”.

“If they resist, the State Government must step in and ensure workplace leaders are able to meet to discuss and address driver safety in the bus industry,” he said.

“The time for talk is over. Drivers need these issues addressed effectively and in a timely manner.”

The owner of Protect Security Geraldton, who preferred not to be named, said he believed there needed to be more security presence during coach arrivals and departures.

“Unfortunately, things are just getting worse and worse. It should be something that should happen,” he said.

“There needs to be more resources and police presence — more police patrols and to be more proactive rather than reactive.”

A State Government spokesperson said bus driver safety was “paramount” and continued to “dedicate significant resources to ensure our entire public transport system is safe and accessible for everyone”.

He said the Government would trial new “safety glass driver protection screens” and had implemented operational policies that “minimise potentially contentious interactions between bus drivers and passengers”.

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