Further Cuts to Airport Screeners Would Erode Passenger Safety - Steelworkers

TORONTO, Jan. 9, 2012 /CNW/ - Cuts to airport security screening services that are speculated to be happening aren't about budget savings and would further threaten national security and passenger safety, the United Steelworkers (USW) says.

"Airport security screening suffered cutbacks and major disruptions due to reorganization last year. Now the Canadian Air Transport Security Agency (CATSA) is at it again," said Wayne Fraser, USW Ontario and Atlantic Director. The USW represents pre-board security screeners at numerous airports across Canada.

"Cutting even more is not the way to improve passenger safety or national security," Fraser said. "In fact, the public is expecting just the opposite. They want safer air travel and more-timely processing.

"Meanwhile, CATSA head office is growing and growing. They have some explaining to do."

CATSA is a Crown corporation created in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks. In an unprecedented reorganizing move for little reward, CATSA overhauled airport security in Canada by re-assigning third-party contracts to security services suppliers through a bidding process in 2011.

In addition to the employer re-organization, CATSA cut staff and screening hours by 15 to 20 per cent in May of last year.

"Our members are proud of the jobs they do," said Ken Neumann, the USW's National Director for Canada. "They protect the public, they protect our national and international aviation security. But how can we maintain that level of public safety when CATSA keeps cutting front-line jobs and insisting on faster passenger processing?

"It is time the Harper Government took air safety serious. Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Community Denis Lebel should act now and recognize that a well-maintained, professional workforce in our airports is an important first-line of defense and security for Canadian travelers," added Neumann.

While it has been implementing screener cuts, CATSA's total expenses have increased by 32% since 2007, from $438 million in 2007 to $576 million in 2011.

"We warned last May that cuts to screeners and screening hours are a threat to passenger safety and national security," Fraser said. "Why does CATSA keep squeezing front-line staff who deliver passenger safety, while it's expanding a back-office empire of checkers checking the checkers?"

SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Wayne Fraser, USW District Director, 416-577-4045
Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5950
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, bgallagher@usw.ca, 416-544-5966


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