Security screening officers at Vancouver International Airport are mobilizing on Monday for better pay and less arduous working conditions amid hot air balloon queues at Canadian airports.
Current and former screeners tell Daily Hive the protest is taking place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. outside the Level 1 international arrivals area, just below the SkyTrain overpass.
Screening officers are discouraged from leaving their posts to demonstrate so that queues at the airport are not affected. Instead, they are asked to attend the rally before or after their shift – or if they have a day off. Members of the public are invited to lend their support.
Screening officers who monitor the baggage of departing air travelers at Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) security checkpoints have in recent weeks decried missed breaks and a hectic work pace that makes hard work.
CATSA is facing a labor shortage after laying off security guards during the pandemic. Traveler volumes rebound, but only a fraction of security screening officers remain. .
Only five of YVR’s 14 security queues can currently open due to staffing shortages, an employee told Daily Hive.
Employees say their employer hasn’t done enough to recruit new employees and isn’t paying enough to make the job attractive. YVR reviewers are paid between $18 and $22 per hour, putting many employees below the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives living wage in Metro Vancouver of $20.52 per hour .
Additionally, screening officers must maintain accuracy while pushing passengers through the line. CATSA auditors sometimes pose as travelers, and if a screener is caught making a mistake, their certifications can be revoked, an official told Daily Hive.
This in turn compounds the problem as there are fewer people to operate the machines. Since someone has to be at each station all the time, some officers have had to delay their lunch breaks and bathroom breaks.
“It’s very stressful. You work for a long time without interruption. You don’t get toilet breaks straight away,” former examiner Shuchi Shah told The Daily Hive earlier this month.
Allied Universal Security Services, the company contracted by CATSA to hire staff and operate security checkpoints, tells Daily Hive that the pandemic is to blame for staffing issues.
“We continue to take all possible steps to increase staffing levels while ensuring that we continue to provide the highest levels of Security screening,” said Vice President of Communications Sherita Coffelt.
“In the meantime, as staffing levels increase in the industry, CATSA strongly advises passengers to arrive at the airport well in advance of their flights – two hours for domestic flights and three hours for U.S. and international destinations. .”
The union representing screening officers told Daily Hive that hiring and training more staff was not a silver bullet. The union expects the unusually long security lines to last through the busy summer travel season.