YVR security screening officers plan rally for better working conditions

May 29 2022, 8:06 pm

Security screening officers at Vancouver International Airport are rallying Monday for better pay and less strenuous working conditions amid ballooning lineups at Canadian airports.

Current and former screening officers tell Daily Hive the demonstration is happening from 9 am to 4 pm outside of the Level 1 international arrivals area, just below the SkyTrain overpass.

Screeners are discouraged leaving their post to demonstrate so lines at the airport aren’t impacted. Instead, they’re asked to attend the rally before or after their shift — or if they have a day off. Members of the public are welcome to lend their support.

The screening agents who monitor departing air travellers’ bags at security checkpoints for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) have spoken out in recent weeks about missed breaks and a breakneck pace of work that’s made the job difficult.

CATSA is facing a worker shortage after laying off security screeners during the pandemic. Traveller volumes are rebounding, but only a fraction of security screening officers are left. .

Only five of YVR’s 14 security lineups can open right now due to the staff shortage, one employee told Daily Hive.

Staff say their employer hasn’t done enough to recruit new employees, and doesn’t pay enough to make the job attractive. YVR Screeners are paid between $18 and $22 per hour, which puts many employees below the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative’s living wage in Metro Vancouver of $20.52 per hour.

In addition, screeners are expected to maintain accuracy while pushing passengers through the line. CATSA auditors sometimes come through posing as travellers, and if a screener is caught making a mistake their certifications may be revoked, one manager told Daily Hive.

In turn, that worsens the problem because there are fewer people to operate machinery. Since someone needs to be at every post all the time, some officers have had to delay their lunch breaks and bathroom breaks.

“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.

Allied Universal Security Services, the company contracted by CATSA to hire staff and operate the security checkpoints, tells 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.



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