Cuts to airport security a risk to public safety: union

Nearly 300 Toronto airport security screeners face layoffs, reduced hours
||Last Updated: 01/26/2012

Almost 300 security screeners are facing layoffs and reduced hours at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, according to the union representing the workers.

The move will lead to longer line-ups and potential security risks, the union said, recommending the layoffs be delayed to ensure public safety.

"The current complement of screening officers is barely adequate to manage the current traffic flow," Canadian Airport Workers’ Union spokesman Denis Ellickson said in a statement. "The reduction of hours has the potential to compromise the safety and security of the travelling public.”

The private company responsible for hiring the screeners, Garda Security Solutions, said the temporary layoff of 68 workers and reduced hours of another 231 will be effective Jan. 25.

Garda disputes the union’s claim that the changes will affect security at the airport.

“Garda will continue to deploy its efficiency model to minimize the impact on passengers,” the company said in a Jan. 11 statement. “The union also requested the federal transport minister to get involved as Garda and the union have been disputing for months.”

The union says intervention by the transport minister is essential to “ensure the safety of Canadians.”

Minister of State for Transport Steven Fletcher refuses to get involved with the dispute, but reassures Canadians of their safety.

“Our government is committed to the safety of the travelling public while protecting taxpayers’ dollars,” Fletcher said.

Cuts to airport security screening services will seriously compromise national security, according to the United Steelworkers (USW), which represents security officers facing cutbacks in Canada’s eastern provinces.

"Airport security screening suffered cutbacks and major disruptions from last year's reorganization,” said USW Ontario and Atlantic director Wayne Fraser. “Now the Canadian Air Transport Security Agency (CATSA) is making more major cuts. This can't go on without adding to airport lineups and affecting passenger safety.”

CATSA is a Crown corporation created to ensure traveler safety. CATSA overhauled airport security in Canada by re-assigning third-party contracts to security services suppliers through a bidding process in 2011.

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