TTC Watch: Bob Kinnear Disrespects Torontonians…again


Inarticulate union leader blames Toronto public for TTC woes

by: James Di Fiore

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Bob Kinnear, the head of the Almagamated Transit Union local 113, lambasted the public at a press conference, blaming them for systemic problems at Toronto’s mass transit service.

Sound familiar? Well, it should.

Kinnear is making a habit out of scapegoating the Toronto public when his own competence is legitimately questioned. In the 2008 TTC strike he abruptly stranded thousands of transit customers without warning, erroneously stating the decision made was to protect his workers from “angry and irrational members of the public.” During negotiations with the TTC, Kinnear had promised to give 48 hours notice before walking off the job but in the end decided 90 minutes was enough.

And people wonder why unions have a bad name is some circles.

His latest farce took place at a press conference on February 9th. It was classic Kinnear, complete with a faux tough-guy voice meant to show his members he had their backs. Not so surprisingly, the statement came off forced, lacking any trace of real professionalism.

“Listen people, stop harassing people who are doing their jobs,” Kinnear told a news conference Tuesday. “Stop insulting them. Stop waving camera phones in their face. Stop spitting on them. Stop calling them lazy and overpaid.”

Kinnear continued. “We will be prepared to listen to constructive criticism and take it to heart,” he said. “We will listen to customer complaints if they are presented in a reasonable way and if we are given the courtesy of giving a courteous reply.”

It is always entertaining to hear a person demand reason and courtesy while behaving unreasonable and arrogant.

In the world of public relations, Kinnear is a nightmare. His crass, unpolished communications skills are evenly matched with his complete lack of respect for the millions of people who ultimately pay his members’ salaries. His tactic – pandering to his base while using the public as pawns and patsies – symbolize an ineptness of diplomacy when attempting to garner public support. In short, Kinnear is a colossal failure.

This latest public rant comes on the heels of TTC Chair Adam Giambrone’s failed mayoral bid after the candidate’s very public sex scandal involving a 20-year-old university student. While Giambrone has not yet announced plans to abandon his transit post, it showcases the rooted failure of the TTC to have effective leadership on both sides of the Commission.

If the public is deciding to hold Giambrone accountable for the TTC’s diminishing reputation, Kinnear deserves the same fate. After a two-year decline in quality service, an ill-advised surprise strike and another fare increase, the public has the right to feel used by Kinnear and the workers he represents.

I bet you $3 he does not learn his lesson.

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13 comments

  1. While I say ‘shame’ to those few TO citizens that may be abusive/ inappropriate to TTC empoyees as of late (or in the past), I feel we the public, are more empowered to make changes in a system that is funded from our pockets…at increasingly high rates.
    The TTC employees may not like the scutiny but they have gone unchecked for too long, and now there is a new sheriff in town….the public.

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  2. I hope you don’t mind me sharing my private comments about this. Here goes:

    “This is well-written and the following comments shall only serve as pedantic nitpicking to be ignored with impunity : )


    “As a member of the transit-riding public I feel vindicated. But I imagine that the poor souls who drive our buses feel trapped in a union they cannot escape and a duty to the public that includes their families to which they come home.

    “Bob Kinnear also stands to take advantage of this kind of criticism by pointing out the *perceived* one-sidedness and then pull a Bill O’Reilley and lash out against the “liberal” media.

    “That being said, keep up the good work. I like your stuff!”

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  3. Your comments are well said. I know the overwhelming vast majority of TTC workers are decent people, but like you said, their leader seems too eager to lecture Torontonians like yourself.

    Thanks for reading.

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  4. Having witnessed on several occasions since the (not) news broke over a worker caught napping on the job, I say Mr. Kinnear is correct in his request that TTC patrons return to showing common courtesy and respect for TTC workers doing their jobs.

    On 4 different occasions this week alone I’ve witnessed riders being rude to TTC workers who were performing their functions professionally & courteously. On each occasion the member of the public made crude reference to the “news” regarding TTC workers, and threatened to turn the worker in to the media. On not one of these occasions was the remark merited by any failure on the part of the worker. They were being verbally harassed, followed at close proximity by camera bearing members of the public who seem to believe that this new “empowerment” you talk about erases the line between what is and is not common courtesy, socially acceptable behaviour, legally acceptable behaviour, things that before you could take for granted on the transit system from both the TTC workers and the general public. On not one of these occasions, even when threatened, did the worker respond unprofessionally, even though on one occasion the patron came close to the line, one that once crossed would have demanded the arrest of the patron to ensure the safety of passengers.

    Mr. Kinnears message was to these individuals, and well deserved. If I can be subjected to a sudden increase in gut-cringingly rude behaviour toward TTC workers in such a short amount of time due to the sensational media coverage of, well, statistically nothing, then the message is needed and forcefully.

    I heard the broadcast of Mr. Kinnear on CBC. It was not directed at me. I am an average resident of Toronto, I’m polite, professional, well spoken and have a problem with those people who behave otherwise in public. I especially have a problem when this behaviour is directed at a small group that in some cases, as 2 of those occasions were bus drivers and another a streetcar operator, being harassed with bus/streetcar in motion, is entrusted with my personal safety and my families safety.

    This harassment is occurring, it is endangering the public, it is uncalled for and it is being perpetrated by enough people that the message Mr. Kinnear had for those people was welcome and overdue.

    Your characterization of Mr. Kinnears remarks were absolutely out of line. He clearly limited this criticism to those person’s engaged in this egregious behaviour of harassing transit workers prompted by thinly veiled media assertions that this conduct was acceptable. He was not in anyway criticizing the general public and I challenge you to provide one direct quote, assertion, or otherwise that is contrary to my assessment.

    The fact that you are not a fan of Unions is in no way a free pass to encourage bad behaviour toward TTC workers. Your mis-characterization of Mr. Kinnears public request is just that. I’m not a fan of Unions in general, I believe they have their place, somewhere. I find lies offensive on either side of that fence.

    The fact of the matter is that this harassment of TTC workers in the execution of their professional duties is an actual public safety issue. Your personal ideologies are not. If you haven’t witnessed the behaviour I make reference to you either do not utilize transit very much or are very unobservant when doing so as I know with certainty that it is occurring.

    I’m happy to say that I was in general surrounded by members of the public that were genuinely embarrassed at the bad behaviour toward the drivers & workers and sympathetic to their situation.

    Also happy, besides the bad behaviour directed at the workers, there has also been a sharp increase in verbal compliments, greetings and other social niceties directed at the workers in recent weeks. Too bad it is sparked by rude & unsafe behaviour on the part of a few.

    Your few. I enjoy your blog regularly, you are out of line in this instance. Go ahead and accept that challenge to show an actual delineation demonstrating that Mr. Kinnear’s remarks were for the general public like myself and not merely the persons being abusive and rude toward TTC workers. You cannot do it. There are plenty of other ways to criticize such a public figure, especially this one, find one that isn’t dishonest.

    Now to hit “Submit Comment”

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  5. Wow. That is quite a mouthful.

    I am aware that there are members of the public who disrupt drivers and are generally rude. You will not find me making excuses for those particular individuals (and they are not ‘my few’ as you incorrectly surmised).

    My point was that Mr. Kinnear, as he has done in the past, does not have the required communications skills to get a message across without sounding like a goon..plain and simple.

    And while we are pointing out rude behaviour, i have witnessed TTC drivers mock people who are running for the streetcar by laughing and shaking their heads before pulling away from the stop. I have witnessed TTC drivers make an entire streetcar wait for 12 minutes (yes, i timed it) while he ventured into a Tim Horton’s. I have watched a young TTC driver pump the brakes over and over again while smirking in the rearview mirror when people fell down.

    So please, spare me the “TTC drivers are victims and riders are rude” speech. We both know there are assholes on both sides.

    Mr. Kinnear, however, holds the crown as being the worst public representative Toronto has ever had. You don’t get results by acting like he did during that press conference. You know what you get? You get a few drivers thinking he has their backs, and you get even more bad behaviour from riders.

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  6. That’s all fine and dandy, your assertion that Mr. Kinnear’s remarks were directed at me is still quite wrong.

    Thanks for the clarification that you did not mean that, that which you wrote.

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  7. My assertion is that Mr. Kinnear did not do a good job directing his comments at anyone in particular. Obviously he isn’t talking about polite people, but more glaring is his sloppy, juvenile, unlettered way of communicating. Truthfully, he did lump riders into one basket.

    It would be nice if we heard him take that exact tone with rude TTC drivers during a press conference, eh.

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  8. Oh and as I was critical I’ll just re-iterate that I enjoy your work, keep it up.
    and my email is .com not .ca, I always do that! Er!

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  9. Ah yes, I’ve worked with unionized, union this that and the other before. I can tell you that oft times they are no more polite to one another that to you or me. I think it comes from that whole “roughneck” outlook as the formation of many unions was prompted by dangerous working conditions, jobs which were at the time filled with hard working men & women that fit the definition of “roughneck” in many ways for their time.

    Characterized by plain or rough language, crude remarks and a seeming indifference to hard working conditions that such demeanor actually served to alleviate. It was and is quite common. Unions often find their leadership within, maybe always, so perhaps Mr. Kinnear has gotten just as far from “roughneck” as he comfortably can. Better that he be a bit rough around the edges than too soft and placating, for him and his people anyway as his position is most often adversarial on their behalf.

    I’ve always been split on unions of today. Prior to the end of WW2 I’d have been on the front lines though, times were certainly different then.

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  10. I think unions are essential in today’s corporate and governmental climates, but they are just as vulnerable to the pitfalls of their own strength.

    Corporations often pretend that the customer is always right but act like they are pretty much irrelevant. Unions seem to sometimes operate as if they should never be questioned.

    And that’s why i think Kinnear does his union a disservice. His reflexive nature of calling out the public seems overly self serving. Again, the strike of 2008 was a great example of his lack of respect for the people that put money in his unions coffers.

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  11. Anyone who has travelled overseas or to other cities outside of Toronto will and can tell you that the TTC staff are very rude — by world or North American standards.

    I can sincerely say that I have not seen transit employees that are as rude as the TTC in my entire life.

    It is not just the rudeness — it is the sheer hostility bordering assault that is exhibited by the TTC staff.

    They give Toronto a bad name.

    I just avoid taking the TTC nowadays whenever possible.

    Hey, walking saves you $3 and keeps you fit!

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