‘Dark days are gone,’ says new transit union VP

Boosting morale by September is a must for the new vice-president of Ottawa’s largest transit union.

“We’ve been bashed so much in the press for years,” said Sharon Bow.

“We want to make people understand and realize we’re not just ‘the guy driving the bus.’ There’s a human being behind the wheel. ”

Bow has been an OC Transpo operator for 21 years.

“I still love it,” she said.

She’s currently on the night shift.

“In our jobs, too, we see a lot of negative (things) just on the street,” she said.

“You see the impact of alcohol, drugs, the homeless…and it’s very sad.”

Bow is aiming to bring a positive approach to her new gig, which begins July 1.

Saturday’s election saw a dramatic leadership shuffle, with Bow defeating incumbent Mike Aldrich.

Craig Watson is the new head of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279, replacing Garry Queale.

“It was time to have a new executive, to have new perspectives and new ideas, to get everybody on the same page, working together,” said Bow.

“We all have the same goal: they want the employees to be happy, we want the members to be happy.”

Watson told the Sun fixing scheduling conflicts for drivers, mechanics and dispatchers — hands down the most contentious issue hampering morale — is his priority.

Bow is on the same page.

Transpo’s summer schedule began Sunday.

Once the executive takes over, “ideally, there would be a solution for the fall booking,” said Bow.

That will put some pep in everyone’s step.

Right now, drivers are dealing with unrealistic scheduling expectations, she said.

“The time it says on the Internet is not the actual running time, so the operators are always running late,” said Bow.

So when they get to the end of the line, “you may have four minutes to use the washroom and to grab your lunch or heat up your lunch, but you’ve already lost that…and that weighs on us as employees, because you’re always stressed.”

That tension spreads to riders, who are “an important part of our job,” said Bow.

With the new executive, “I think they feel a sense of relief, too. The dark days are gone.”

Riding that wave, Bow is determined to shift the vibe at Transpo.

“I want people to be proud of where they work and what they do. And they should be,” she said.

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

@ottawasunkroche

http://www.ottawasun.com/2012/06/24/dark-days-are-gone-says-new-transit-union-vp

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