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Long airport lineups cause public outcry, Whitehorse workers deserve better

Recent long lineups at airports are causing a public outcry to fix security screening services at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse 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 Erik Nielsen Whitehorse 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 are essential to keep air travel safe for all northerners and prevent catastrophic events from occurring,” said Earl Graham of the United Steelworkers union (USW), representing screening officers in Whitehorse. “The issues in Whitehorse are not that different compared to other jurisdictions in Western Canada. There is a big problem with employee recruitment and retention that needs to be addressed now; otherwise, more workers will burn out, leading to further delays going through security lines. People shouldn’t have to wait so long at an airport the size of Whitehorse.”

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 Canadian airports prompting the airports and airlines to encourage travellers to arrive as early as possible to avoid the possibility of missing flights.

“In Whitehorse, we see workers burning out because of the lengthy delays, stress of the long hours, and staffing shortages, leading to a reduced number of screening lines. We also hear that workers are taking on second jobs to make up for inadequate wages and the cost of living and housing in the city,” said Graham.

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 contract to provide security screening at a level the Canadian travelling public expects.

“The government needs to provide more funding and give stronger direction to screening contractors to negotiate labour agreements that are fair and adequate to the communities they serve,” added Graham.

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For further information:

Earl Graham, Assistant to the USW District 3 Director, 604-341-6381, egraham@usw.ca
Brett Barden, USW Communications, 604-445-6956, bbarden@usw.ca

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