Air travel: Unions say turnover rate high for security officers



Unions representing airport security screeners say turnover for new staff is high regardless of efforts to rent extra staff, with as few as one in three latest hires nonetheless on the job in some areas.

Major delays and flight cancellations at airports throughout Canada earlier this yr drew scrutiny from passengers and politicians alike. Among different measures to ease the chaos, the federal government promised to ramp up hiring of security screeners — and did so, with greater than 2,000 new screeners employed since April.

Now the stress is on for airports to have a clean vacation season, however high turnover and widespread bargaining between security screeners and their employers may throw one other wrench into operations.

David Lipton with the United Steelworkers union, which represents about 2,000 airport security screeners at 41 airports, mentioned solely a few third of the screeners employed previously few months have stayed on, with the remaining both quitting, leaving through the coaching interval or not displaying as much as coaching. Other unions reported comparable turnover ranges for latest new hires.

For instance, Lipton mentioned the Ottawa airport wants between 350 and 380 staff to be adequately staffed, although security employer GardaWorld disputed this, saying their goal is beneath 350. Right now, Ottawa has round 270, up from round 200 earlier this yr, Lipton mentioned.

Security screeners at Canadian airports work for third-party contractors employed by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA). There are three foremost contractors offering screeners at airports throughout Canada: Allied Universal, Securitas and GardaWorld.

CATSA mentioned the common reported attrition rate for security officers through the quarter ended Sept. 30 was 12.2 per cent. Spokesperson Suzanne Perseo mentioned the company is prepared for the upcoming vacation season.

Both GardaWorld and Allied Universal each mentioned they’re nicely staffed, with GardaWorld rising hiring for the vacation, whereas Securitas declined to remark, citing ongoing bargaining.

Almost the entire security screeners coated by USW are at the moment in bargaining with their employers, mentioned Lipton. Among them are the Quebec and Atlantic Canada screeners, who lately rejected a suggestion from Securitas, and staff on the Ottawa airport who’re bargaining with GardaWorld, he mentioned.

Lipton mentioned inflation has made present wages for security screening much less engaging, making it tougher to retain staff.

“In the instances of high inflation, the employees require extra of a elevate simply to make ends meet,” he mentioned.

But he mentioned working situations are additionally driving individuals away as with fewer staff, the shifts are longer and extra disturbing.

Keith Aiken with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), which represents hundreds of security screeners in B.C. and Ontario, together with those at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, did not give specifics however mentioned the turnover rate for security screeners is “very high.” He attributed turnover at Pearson to scheduling and dealing situations.

“Our pre-board screeners are extremely monitored in a disturbing setting and this causes new staff to not need to do the job,” mentioned Aiken in an emailed assertion.

The workplace of the transport minister acknowledged that like different sectors, CATSA is at the moment going through increased ranges of workers turnover.

But spokeswoman Nadine Ramadan mentioned CATSA has achieved pre-pandemic staffing ranges at main airports and is coming into the vacation season with decrease wait instances. For instance, she mentioned at Pearson, CATSA is 25 per cent above pre-pandemic staffing ranges, together with turnover.

But the brand new hires who keep are going through backlogs within the CATSA-provided coaching course of, mentioned IAMAW’s Aiken.

Aiken mentioned which means many new hires can solely do sure duties, and never full screening duties.

CATSA’s Perseo mentioned the screening authority modified its coaching earlier this yr to “speed up screening officer readiness whereas prioritizing security effectiveness.”

That means some new recruits are performing non-screening features within the queues to optimize staffing. She additionally mentioned CATSA has added extra trainers.

COVID-19 has modified the fact for staff, mentioned Catherine Cosgrove of Teamsters Canada, which represents round 1,000 GardaWorld screening staff throughout the nation, together with in Winnipeg and Edmonton.

“Turnover proper now could be widespread,” she mentioned of the screening business, agreeing that round a 3rd of recent hires from the previous few months are nonetheless on the job.

Screeners on the Edmonton airport signed a deal in September with a 12 per cent wage improve over two and a half years after voting for strike motion in July.

But regardless of these features, Cosgrove mentioned she thinks employee retention goes to be a persistent drawback within the business.

If bargaining goes south heading into the vacation season, USW screeners could not be capable of strike, famous Lipton — the unions are awaiting a call from the Canada Industrial Relations Board to find out whether or not they have a proper to strike relying on how a lot of their job is taken into account important.

USW is looking on the federal government to extend funding for CATSA’s screeners, as they say the employers are citing funding restrictions of their third-party contracts as a cause for not with the ability to provide higher offers on the bargaining desk.

CATSA didn’t touch upon its funding however mentioned it is assured the contractors can work with the unions to succeed in agreements, whereas the transport minister’s workplace mentioned the federal government has not lower or decreased funding for CATSA staffing.

But Lipton mentioned extra is required.

“I feel {that a} main challenge right here is that CATSA must adequately fund screening operations in order that the screening contractors will pay correct wages to those individuals and stabilize the workforce,” Lipton mentioned.

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed Nov. 10, 2022.


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