TORONTO, Jan. 12, 2012 /CNW/ - Garda Security Group is laying off 299 security screeners at Pearson International Airport in a move that will lead to major delays for airline passengers.
The dramatic cuts will cause longer line ups at Canada's busiest airport as the huge volume of passengers that pass through security each day will have to wait longer to be screened by fewer security staff.
The heavy lay offs could also put passengers at risk, according to the Canadian Airport Workers' Union.
"The current complement of screening officers is barely adequate to manage the current traffic flow," said Denis Ellickson, a Toronto lawyer and spokesperson for the union.
The union has demanded the lay offs be put on hold and has called on Transport Minister Denis Lebel to intervene to ensure the safety of Canadians.
"The reduction of hours has the potential to compromise the safety and security of the travelling public," said Mr Ellickson.
Garda Security notified staff the lay offs will be effective January 25, 2012. The public is being advised to consider alternative travel arrangements.
Garda is a private for-profit contractor that was awarded a fresh contract late last year to provide security at the Toronto airport. The steep reduction in staffing levels will allow the company to increase its profits even though it will inconvenience passengers, who pay a fee for security screening of $7.48 for a one-way domestic flight and up to $25.91 for an international flight.
The lay off of 20 per cent of staff is being announced even though passenger traffic rose 5.5 per cent in the first nine months of 2011 at Pearson.
The company indicated to staff that the cuts were being initiated by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, the federal government agency that oversees airport security.
However, CATSA has denied ordering reductions in staff. The Canadian Airport Workers' Union said the company misled the union, acted in bad faith, and was violating labour law.
New Democrat MP Olivia Chow said forcing fewer screeners to handle more passengers would mean trouble.
"You can't talk security unless you have human beings in place. It will either mean longer waits, longer line-ups, or you compromise security."
The union insisted it would fight the lay offs.
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