STM transit complaints dealt with on case-by-case basis

The public will never know how the STM will deal with the public transit worker who is alleged to have insulted a passenger and put her into a headlock during a dispute involving a malfunctioning métro fare machine.

The STM must heed Quebec’s act respecting access to documents held by public bodies and the protection of personal information.

“Situations like this are dealt with internally,” STM spokesperson Isabelle Tremblay said, adding that the incident is under investigation.

After each complaint, appropriate measures are taken, Tremblay said, depending on the severity of the situation and whether it is a first time or a repeat scenario.

The altercation, widely reported by several media, involved 23-year-old Mina Barak and a ticket taker at the de la Savane métro station. According to Barak, she tried to buy tickets but the machine “ate” her money. She said she asked the worker to let her through or come check the machine, but she was told to “go back to your country.”

Infuriated, Barak says she filed a complaint by telephone, and told the worker that she hoped the worker would be fired as a result of her rudeness. Barak said that at this point the worker emerged from her booth and assaulted her.

Although Tremblay declined to speak in detail about this case, she said that the STM makes continuing efforts to improve customer service. While the STM cannot ask its employees to speak English, in keeping with the French Language Charter, they are obliged to treat clients with respect at all times and are given tools to communicate non-verbally if necessary.

As well, they receive training in customer service, including a seminar to deal with difficult situations.

The company’s code of ethics is available on the STM website, which exists in both languages. It reads in part: “Employees in the exercise of their duties must respect individuals for what they are, without distinction exclusion or preference based on race, colour, sex, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social status, disability or the use of a means to alleviate this disability.” The code stresses that individual safety is paramount and that it “cannot accept any compromise that puts this in jeopardy.”

As well, employees are called upon to think of themselves as “ambassadors in behaviour and attitude” with zero tolerance for any form of racial profiling.

Tremblay says the number of incidents under investigation are relatively few, considering the STM employs more than 4,000 workers in front-line positions dealing with clients seven days a week. The STM receives between 400 and 600 complaints a year.

Tremblay encourages passengers to share their comments, positive and negative, by calling 514-786-4636.

“You can leave your name and someone will call you back. You can help us help you.”

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