Thursday, November 26, 2009


Union response
TriMet Management Eager to Throw Operator Under the Train

"Most people hope that they will be treated justly in their workplace," says Jon Hunt, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, Division 757. He is talking about recent events where a three-year old child ended up stranded on the rail platform while his father was still on the train.

Hunt states that he is also the father of a pre-schooler and so can imagine the terror that father must have felt. "I can also understand that people want to hold someone accountable so that this situation never happens again," Hunt says.

"But," Hunt goes on to say, "Here's the problem. Before doing any investigation whatsoever, TriMet managers announce to the press that they intend to discipline the operator of the train. The question everyone should ask is "why is TriMet management so quick to point the blame away from themselves and onto the operator?"

Over the past few days, the Union has conducted its own investigation, talking to mechanics, supervisors and other operators. What it has learned indicates the accusing fingers may be pointing in the wrong direction. The Union has asked for documents that should help it finalize the investigation.

"Our preliminary investigation has shown the following. A test on the train's intercom system the day of the event indicates that the two-way communication system did not work. No alert whatsoever appeared in the operator's cab. The data recorder also shows that every time the passenger frantically pushed the button, the passenger cancelled his prior call. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened. Operators and passengers have been complaining about a number of intermittent problems with the new rail car's communications system. Nothing has been fixed."

"There are numerous other problems with the new rail cars as well. In this case, as in other cases, customers push the button for the disabled ramp and the doors won't open and the operator does not even know the button was pushed because the notice doesn't get through to the cab. Operators and passengers have been complaining about trapped passengers and malfunctioning communication equipment. TriMet management knows this is a problem. They have been communicating with the rail manufacturer about these issues but there has been no resolution.

As a consequence, the child was left alone on the platform. Unfortunately, this is not the only safety issue in the rail system that needs attention," Hunt says.

TriMet managers knew about this problem even before the green line to Clackamas was opened to the public. If they had delayed that opening until the problem was fixed the child would not have been left on the platform. People with disabilities and passengers seeking to leave the train would not find themselves trapped on TriMet trains. And a twenty-year operator, with a wife and children, would not find himself worrying about his family's future this holiday season."

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