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Karen Stintz goes undercover, poses as a TTC worker for TV

Karen Stintz in disguise as Ruth Bear using the floor buffing machine with 25-year TTC veteran service person Sylvia Butt at Victoria Park Station in Toronto.

Canadian Press/Canadian Press

After spending 10 days posing as a dark-haired, nose-ring-wearing transit worker for the popular reality TV show Undercover Boss Canada, TTC chair Karen Stintz thinks her council colleagues would do well to take a turn doing the work of the people who staff front-line city operations.

"I absolutely think everyone would benefit," said Ms. Stintz, who worked five shifts in all, including an overnighter cleaning buses.

It's unclear whether Torontonians will soon encounter works committee chair Denzil Minnan-Wong slinging curbside trash containers, or if community development and recreation chair Giorgio Mammoliti may one day show up as a lifeguard at a municipal pool.

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But Ms. Stintz said the experience gave her a new appreciation of what TTC employees, such as subway drivers and maintenance workers, experience as they do their jobs. She was accompanied by a camera crew and assumed a stage name – Ruth Bear – while her co-workers were told she was part of a documentary about women returning to the work force.

With the subway drivers, she learned that isolation is a big part of the job, and one that will only become more pronounced as the number of operators per train falls from two to one with the arrival of the new rockets. She said the TTC has to find ways of maintaining a sense of "connectedness" with the operators.

As for cleaning and maintenance crews, Ms. Stintz said she observed how many employees take great pride in tasks such as repairing the upholstery on vehicle seats, and found herself wondering whether the TTC and its unions can negotiate more flexible work arrangements instead of outsourcing jobs.

"I think there are better ways to reach our bottom line."

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