Airport delays: Former Vancouver screener speaks out

A former security officer who worked at Vancouver International Airport says she quit her four-year job due to poor working conditions and low pay.

Shuchi Shah was employed by Allied Universal Security, an American company hired by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to conduct security investigations at airports in British Columbia and Yukon.

She says many of her former colleagues have also recently retired, or simply haven’t returned to the company after being recalled from COVID-19 layoffs.

“Think about it. We are so exhausted. We are working so hard. We don’t get enough support from our management,” Shah said. “We don’t get paid enough. Every screening officer is just tired.”

She quit her job in April, despite there being no new ones in line.

CATSA said it is aware that AUS is having problems recruiting and retaining employees, which has led to a staff shortage that has led to long lines for security at YVR – prompting the airport and airlines to encourage travelers as early as possible to arrive to miss the possibility of flights.

In recent days, lines leading to security checkpoints have made their way through airport terminals at various times, with some travelers reporting wait times of up to three hours.

According to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents frontline security screeners at Canadian airports, only enough staff are available on any given day to open five of the 14 security lanes in YVR’s domestic departure area.

“Our members are asked to do more with less. They make it through very challenging circumstances and continue to do their job with a high level of dedication, but in the end they just can’t keep up with the amount of work that’s going on,” said Dave, president of Local 2323. Flowers.

AUS workers at YVR, who earn just over $22 an hour, have also been working uncontracted since November, but the union said it had no impact on staffing levels.

Flowers called on CATSA to take a more active role in ensuring that AUS honors its contract to provide security checks at a level that the Canadian traveling public expects.

“What is the solution to detain people? I think it comes down to the basic respect of the workers,” he said. “We want to urge CATSA and Transport Canada to hold these contractors accountable.”

In an emailed statement to CTV News, AUS did not answer questions about working conditions and the current state of collective bargaining.

“Like companies around the world, the Allied Universal team has faced workforce challenges as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to significantly disrupt labor markets,” the statement said.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank our screening officers for keeping the traveling public safe. We are also grateful for the patience and understanding of travelers as they go through security.”

CATSA said it relies on its screening contractors to negotiate employment contracts in good faith.

“We continue to work with our contractor Allied Universal to ensure security screenings at Vancouver International Airport are as effective and efficient as possible,” CATSA said in a statement.

At this point, these efforts may not be apparent to travelers who have long waits to clear security while passing through YVR.

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