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Bus drivers are on board with $5,000 fine idea

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Newcastle bus drivers say passengers who deliberately cough and spit on them should be forced to pay a $5,000 fine.

The call comes as NSW Police investigate an attack by a passenger on a bus in Cardiff last week.

The driver of the bus alleges a man was told not to board the bus because he could not pay the fare.

The man then deliberately coughed on him and stated he had coronavirus, before leaving the scene.

State secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union NSW Richard Olsen, said this kind of behaviour was intolerable.

“The TWU membership is disgusted by these gutless attacks on bus drivers, people doing their jobs, keeping their community moving,” he said.

“We would call on members of the public, to avoid taking out their frustrations on drivers.”

On April 19 a $5,000 on-the-spot fine introduced for spitting and coughing on NSW health workers was expanded to include other essential workers as the state’s coronavirus death toll rose.

Bus drivers were included in this category.

The TWU are now urging police to get firm on offenders, asking that they face the full force of the law, including the $5,000 fine.

“We have seen too many violent attacks on bus drivers over too many years,” Mr Olsen said.

A recent survey of NSW bus drivers revealed 84% had faced verbal abuse from passengers, with 81% claiming it was a daily occurrence.

The TWU represent the transport workers in the private bus industry, which runs over 80% of the fleet on NSW Government Contracts.

On May 27 Transport NSW gave the first approval for spit screens, made of carbon fibre, to be installed on privately operated buses in Sydney.

The screens will be on offer to the entire private bus industry in NSW.

Training for drivers on how to de-escalate dangerous situations will also be introduced, as well as the introduction of marshals at major transport hubs, buffer zones for social distancing, and cash handling bans.

The TWU says if attacks continue to occur on buses in the private industry, members of the public could expect disruption to services and possible bans related to unsafe work.

Further: A 2019 TWU bus driver survey revealed the following:

  • 84% of Drivers face verbal abuse from passengers with 81% experiencing verbal abuse daily.
  • A majority of drivers have felt threatened by the behaviour of passengers over a one-year period.
  • 74% of Drivers have face regular abuse when enforcing Opal card rules.

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