TTC operators refusing work over hack-related radio disruptions

Drivers are being asked to use personal cellphones until communications are restored

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Ongoing disruptions in the TTC’s communications systems caused by last week’s ransomware attack are prompting some TTC operators to refuse work.

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Field visit reports by Ministry of Labour inspectors obtained by the  Sun  back up claims made by a number of TTC operators that some feel unsafe being behind the wheel having to rely on their personal cellphones to call for help.

Despite claims the attack caused no significant disruptions, employees say the hack brought down the TTC’s “Vision” system that allows Transit Control to track and communicate with transit vehicles — including a “silent alarm” feature that allows drivers to surreptitiously call for help.

“We were always told during training that no comms means no driving,” said one TTC operator, whom the Sun has agreed not to name.

A Ministry of Labour report shared with the Sun documents the concerns of an operator who stopped their bus on Friday along Finch Ave. E. near McCowan Rd., refusing to carry on due to a lack of radios.

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“The worker had just taken over the shift and found out that the communication system on the bus was not functioning,” reported the inspector. “Had attempted to activate the communication button twice, and failed.”

A copy of a Ministry of Labour inspection report in response to a work refusal on Friday by a concerned TTC operator
A copy of a Ministry of Labour inspection report in response to a work refusal on Friday by a concerned TTC operator Photo by submitted

Vision is currently on a fallback system, which instead of a ‘private line’ between operator and dispatcher now operates as a ‘party line’ where communications can be heard by all units on the channel — but even that system isn’t 100% reliable, and some operators said they weren’t aware of it when asked.

According to the ministry report, operators are being asked to communicate with Transit Control using personal cellphones — which under TTC policy cannot be used while driving and must be kept inside pockets.

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The report said drivers have access to a “distress” alarm that activates the bus’s four-way flashers and continuously sounds the bus’s horn.

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Friday’s report was eventually dismissed by the inspector, but operators say many of the TTC accommodations made in the report — including increased patrols by mobile supervisors — aren’t happening.

At least 50 work refusals have been lodged with the Labour Ministry since the system went down, ATU Local 113 president Carlos Santos told the Sun.

“We’re deeply concerned and troubled that this has now being going on past four days,” he said.

Santos said that while a handful of operators were issued two-way radios, members are being asked to use personal cellphones to communicate.

“If our members forget to turn their cellphones off and leave it in their knapsack and it rings, they’re getting written up by supervisors,” he said.

TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said the city’s surface fleet is equipped with backup radios during Vision system outages, and that additional supervisors are now working street duty to directly support operators.

bpassifiume@postmedia.com
On Twitter:  @bryanpassifiume

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