Metro Vancouver bus drivers are seeking legal advice as to whether Coast Mountain Bus Co. breached their privacy when it installed secret cameras in their coaches, allegedly to catch a vandal.
Don MacLeod, president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union 111, said that in June, unbeknownst to bus drivers, a second lens was hidden inside the housing of security cameras in 11 coaches in Vancouver and three in Richmond.
The second "covert" lens was set on the driver, MacLeod said, while the main camera, originally installed to provide better security for drivers and passengers, continued to record events at the door and the fare box. The second lens was only discovered after a driver complained that his camera wasn't working properly.
"It was truly by fluke it was discovered in there," MacLeod said. "The greatest damage that has been done is to the employees in terms of mistrust; that's what's rattled the workforce the most. It's not a good feeling to find out the company installed secret cameras."
Coast Mountain argues it installed the secret cameras in an attempt to catch the person responsible for the vandalism of several bus drivers' seats, which cost $2,200 apiece.
"It was important for the company to find out who was doing it," spokeswoman Catherine Melvin said. "It wasn't about breaking the trust of the operators."
She noted the cameras were supposed to have been removed by Aug. 30, but the contractor was backed up and didn't get around to taking them out. On a positive note, she added, the cameras' footage hadn't been reviewed because no vandalism was reported while they were installed.
The company has since issued an apology to Coast Mountain's 3,500 drivers.
But MacLeod said the union will continue to investigate the matter. He said the union would have appreciated discussing the matter with Coast Mountain and coming up with other alternatives to catching the vandals: "For the average member out there, this is the question people have in the back of their minds. ... Who's watching us now?"