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Long airport lineups cause public outcry, Abbotsford workers deserve better

Recent long lineups at B.C. airports are causing a public outcry to fix security screening services at the Abbotsford International Airport.

Employees of Allied Universal Security, an American company contracted by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to handle security screening at the Abbotsford International Airport, are responsible for pre-board screening of all passengers and non-passengers. Uniformed screening officers are trained to detect hidden weapons, explosives and other items that may be flammable or unintentionally cause a risk to safe air travel. Training is extensive and involves using x-rays, body scanners, metal detectors and full body searches.

“Screening officers who are governed by hundreds of safe operating procedures are essential to air travel safety to prevent a tragic recurrence of an event like 9-11,” said Al Bieksa, United Steelworkers union (USW) Local 2009 President representing screening officers at Abbotsford Airport. “We have a big problem here of employee recruitment and retention, and if it’s not addressed soon, it will lead to a further staffing shortage caused by burnout.”

There is a significant problem with employee recruitment and retention. Recruiting screening officers is a long and arduous process that includes intensive training and mandatory Transport Canada clearance that can take many months to complete. Many potential recruits simply give up because of the time involved and seek employment elsewhere.

The challenge of recruiting and retaining employees has led to a staffing shortage causing long lines for security at many B.C. airports prompting the airports and airlines to encourage travellers to arrive as early as possible to avoid the possibility of missing flights.

“With the increased pressures of lengthy delays, workers are simply burning out because of the stress of long hours, staffing shortages, and reduced number of screening lines. We also hear of workers taking on second jobs to make up for inadequate wages that screening officers earn. Allied Universal needs to step up and do better to retain workers,” said Bieksa.

The USW is calling on Transport Canada and CATSA to take a more active role in ensuring that all screening contractors, including Allied Universal, live up to their contracts to provide security screening at a level the Canadian travelling public expects.

“More funding needs to be made available and stronger direction given to screening contractors to negotiate labour agreements that are fair, equitable and made in good faith,” added Bieksa.

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For further information:

Al Bieksa, USW Local 2009 President, 604-842-2900, abieksa@usw2009.ca
Brett Barden, USW Communications, 604-445-6956, bbarden@usw.ca

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