To the Editor:
Bus operators across all divisions are driving in pain because 25 percent of the seat belts are defective.
Here is the issue. When I was a TWU safety rep for nine years, I was told by TA Surface Vice President, J.P Patafio and First Vice Chair Willie Rivera that Bus Operators were putting holes and knots in the seat belts because they did not want to wear them. These two union reps and some depot Chairs told us we were vandals.
In fact, at a shop gate meeting at Ulmer Park shortly after my return, Bus Operators were told by the Chair that we were vandalizing the seat belts. After driving a few months, I have found the opposite to be true.
The issue is that some of the seat belts get tighter and tighter around your abdomen as you drive down the route.
When you pull out in the bus, this is not evident. Only after shifting in your seat, hitting bumps and potholes, do you notice that your stomach is being squeezed after about 20 minutes.
This can be painful. Bus operators have resorted to modifying the seat belts so they can wear them and be in compliance.
I now fully understand the issue after driving two Ulmer Park buses and having my abdomen constricted. This is especially dangerous for those of us who have had prostate cancer and female Operators who are expecting.
So, the reason the Bus Operator puts a knot in the seat belt is not because he or she is a malicious vandal; rather, the knot serves as a chock to keep the defective seat-belt mechanism from tightening around us.
The same is true for putting a hole in the seat belt. This is done so a pen or another straight object can be put through the seat belt to stop it from tightening.
I reached out to my co-workers in my depot, across Brooklyn and the two other bus divisions. I shortly received 42 complaints from fellow Bus Operators confirming that the seat belt defect is widespread.
I’m calling on the TWU Bus Safety Director, Earl Phillips to come out of his office and investigate this dangerous situation. I am also asking the Chief Maintenance Officer at Zerega and Technical Services at Grand Ave to look at the retractor mechanism.
We need to know if the spool, spring or pawl is defective and have a campaign to fix them. In the meantime, I am asking bus operators to write up any seat belts that are causing pressure and to keep a list. If you cannot wear the seat belt because it is painful, then we have no choice but to take the bus out of service.
I want to apologize to the Bus Operators for not looking into this more closely when I worked for TWU safety. You are not vandals.
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