“We feel alone and cornered in our cabin”: Keolis bus drivers testify after the attack on a colleague

“We feel alone and cornered in our cabin”: Keolis bus drivers testify after the attack on a colleague

Les chauffeurs ne sont montés dans leur bus que peu avant 10 h. Midi Libre – Kelman Marti

Ce mercredi 5 juin, aucun bus n’a circulé avant 10 h en raison de l’agression d’un chauffeur, la veille.

It’s 7:30 a.m. this Wednesday, June 5. The day is beautiful. But for some Agglo bus users, it is less so. Their driver is not there to take them to their destination. It is elsewhere, at the Keolis Bassin de Thau headquarters, located at the Sète aquatechnical park. The reason ? A walkout from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. so as not to trivialize the aggression of the day before; a 35-year-old driver was grabbed by the collar by a person who did not want to pay his ticket at the "Île de Thau" stop.

Also read: A Keolis driver attacked at dawn, on the Île de Thau: no bus between 5:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. this Wednesday, June 5, in Sète

In the offices, the drivers and other Keolis staff members are almost all there this Wednesday morning. They discuss, debate and remain in shock from the aggression. "A situation with violence like that of Tuesday remains rare for a small network like that of SAM", says Auguste Garcia, dean of SAM drivers with 31 years of experience profession.

"A societal problem"

"The problem has been societal since the end of Covid. Being insulted has unfortunately become commonplace", declare Emmanuel and Delphine, before resuming their duty. "Incivility has increased everywhere in France and not just in Sète. They not only take place on the island of Thau, but also at the station, at the corniche… everywhere in fact", locates Auguste Garcia.

"They are young people, but not only that. There may also be adults and elderly people. It’s a global change in attitude, estimates driver Pascal Hurez, before illustrating it with an example. One time, two young people got on the bus. Pass in front of me. Don't pay. I call on them. They tell me: 'shut up and drive!' I stopped the bus and waited. After five minutes, they came down. In this case, you should definitely not enter into direct conflict with them."

"When someone cheats, I don't say anything anymore because I'm afraid of the reaction they may have to have. I tell him that he will make arrangements with the controller. We feel alone and cornered in our cabin. It’s sad", confides Delphine, according to whom the situation has become similar between male and female drivers, overriding sexist reflections like "she has her rules" or "she is going through menopause".

Support from management and the Agglo

"We couldn't let this attack go. We took this action, in support of the drivers, to demonstrate our fed up and the increase in incivility", explains Jean-François Buisson, director of Keolis Thau basin. "The aggression on Tuesday is unacceptable, so we came with François Commeinhes, president of the Agglo, to show our support for the employees", < /em>adds Norbert Chaplin, deputy delegate for public transport and new mobility policies.

"What you need to keep in mind is that it’s not just physical attacks – we have had four or five cases since the start of the year – there are mainly verbal attacks. If a driver drives with fear, it doesn't make his day and his work easier, deplores the’elected official. Fortunately that the driver had an anti-aggression window on Tuesday."

Citizens need to have more respect for drivers

A device which is gradually becoming more widespread, with the replacement of some old buses with new ones having the system. But beyond this tool that drivers want to see in all vehicles, they regret a lack of controllers on a daily basis. "Their presence reduces incivility and we feel more secure", assures Pascal Hurez. However, "there are often two of them per morning and afternoon, and have additional tasks which take up their time and take away their face time", contextualizes Gérard Banon, supervisor at Keolis.

"In the current state, the organization of controllers must be sufficient. One or two more controllers will not allow you to be in the right place at the right time", says Jean-François Buisson. "At the same time, we are working with the national and municipal police to ensure that agents board the buses regularly. Drivers also undergo conflict management training. More broadly, citizens must have more respect for drivers and the rules of use", concludes the director of Keolis Bassin de Thau with this call for responsibility.

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