Security screening officers rallied outside Vancouver International Airport on Monday to protest their employers’ failure to address a staffing shortage that’s led to missed breaks and intense pressure at work.
Workers gathered outside the international arrivals area of the terminal and chanted “overworked, underpaid” while carrying colourful signs.
Security screening officers are rallying at YVR today for better pay amid a stressful staff shortage pic.twitter.com/IzbIMa3jGq
— Megan Devlin (@MegDevlinn) May 30, 2022
Screening officers at YVR are paid $18 to $22 per hour, which puts many below the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s living wage in Metro Vancouver of $20.52 per hour.
Current and former employees have told Daily Hive it’s simply not enough compensation for the stressful nature of the job, and that’s why their employer, Allied Universal Security Services, is having trouble filling the vacant positions.
Allied is contracted by the Canadian Air Transport Authority to provide security services in the airport — namely scanning travellers’ bags for weapons and other unsafe items. There’s a shortage of security screeners across the country right now after many were laid off during the pandemic.
Traveller volumes are rebounding now, but there is still only a fraction of screening officers available for work. It’s so dire at YVR right now that only five of the 14 security lines can open, one employee told Daily Hive earlier this month.
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Employees say they’re having to delay or miss their breaks, and they’re feeling pressure to move passengers through the line as quickly as possible, but if they’re caught making a mistake, their qualifications could be revoked.
“It’s very stressful. You work for a long period of time without breaks. You don’t get washroom breaks right away,” former screener Shuchi Shah told Daily Hive earlier this month. She ended up quitting at the end of April.
Allied told Daily Hive the pandemic is to blame for the staffing issues.
“We are continuing to take all steps possible to increase staffing levels while ensuring we continue to provide the highest levels of security screening,” vice president of communications Sherita Coffelt said.
“In the meantime, as staffing levels ramp back up across the industry, CATSA strongly advises that passengers arrive at the airport well in advance of their flights – two hours for domestic and three hours for US and international destinations.”
The union representing screening officers told Daily Hive hiring and training more employees is no quick fix. The union expects the uncharacteristically long security lines to last through the busy summer travel season.