OC Transpo drivers say they've had enough of constantly being the target of passenger and management criticism.

They said they've been spit on, sworn at and yelled at, and recent events are making the tension even worse.

"You might be seeing somebody lash out, whereas normally they wouldn't," said one driver of the workplace atmosphere. "I think something has to be said about that."

"Being spit on really makes you feel . . . it was awful, just awful," said one driver who didn't want to appear on-camera. "You can't do anything about it."

When one driver walked off a bus after being criticized for being late, his union blamed management for the poor scheduling that led up to it.

"Alain Mercier doesn't drive a bus, Jim Watson doesn't drive a bus. They don't bear the brunt of it," a driver said.

"It's unfortunate that management doesn't take more responsibility," said driver Michael Mathurin. "I stopped the bus and opened the rear door and got a statement of do your f-in job you a-hole. And I thought this was disrespectful, but this is an ongoing event."

Ottawa's transit union is asking OC Transpo management and passengers to stop the "witch-hunt" against its drivers.

A memo was sent to members of the Amalgamated Transit Union 279 late Wednesday saying drivers are right to leave their bus if they're threatened.

"You have a right to pull over at a bus stop, make sure the doors are open call Control and tell them that you are 'killing the Bus for Health & Safety reasons,' wait for a 'Proper Authority' to remove the distraction from your bus,'" the memo said.

"Your Controller cannot tell you what IS or what is NOT a Health & Safety issue."

It's a power some drivers said they hope they don't have to use.

"You don't want to disrupt the whole bus for one person," they said. :You could have 60 to 70 people on your bus."

Drivers under fire this month

The memo said the last week had been a difficult one for the union and its members, after a number of high-profile incidents involving bus drivers.

Monday a driver was fired for threatening a disruptive passenger earlier this month, which was caught on video.

The same day, another driver left his bus at the Rideau Centre after a rider asked him why the bus was consistently 40 minutes behind schedule.

The memo highlighted other incidents involving drivers, including one where a passenger reportedly waved his bus pass six inches in front of a driver's face.

The memo said when the driver told the rider "not to do that again or he will not ride the bus," another passenger e-mailed the City of Ottawa from their smartphone and the driver was taken off his run to see his section head.

Another mother said a driver was rude to her son Wednesday night when he accidentally took the wrong bus.

"The driver was yelling at them, he was shouting and just being really rude," said Natalie Patrick. "Management is not dealing with the source of the frustration."

The union said the City of Ottawa bylaws should protect drivers from "profane, indecent, abusive, foul, insulting or obscene language" on their buses.

They said drivers can't safely operate their bus when a rider is distracting them.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's John Hua