Airport delays: A former Vancouver sorter speaks out

A former security screening employee who worked at Vancouver International Airport says she left her job for four years due to poor working conditions and low pay.

Shochi Shah was employed by Allied Universal Security, a US company that has contracted with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to handle security screening at airports in British Columbia and Yukon.

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

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

She quit her job in April despite not lining up with another job.

CATSA said it understands that AUS is having trouble recruiting and retaining staff, which has resulted in a staff shortage that has caused long queues for security at YVR — prompting the airport and airlines to encourage travelers to arrive as soon as possible to avoid the possibility of missing flights.

In recent days, at various times, lines to security checkpoints have made their way through the terminals, with some travelers reporting waiting for up to three hours.

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

“Our members are being asked to do more with less. Dave, 2323 Local Chief Flowers, said.

AUS employees at YVR, whose salaries are just over $22 an hour, have also been working without a contract since November, but the union said that has had no impact on employment levels.

Flowers has called for Katsa to take a more active role in ensuring that Australia complies with its contract to provide security screening at the level that the Canadian travel public would expect.

“What is the reform to retain people? I think it is about basic respect for employees,” he said. “We want to urge CATSA and Transport Canada to hold these contractors accountable.”

In a statement emailed to CTV News, AUS did not answer questions about working conditions and the status of ongoing collective bargaining.

“Like companies around the world, the Allied Universal team has been impacted by employment challenges as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak significant disruption to labor markets,” the statement said.

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

Katsa said it trusts inspection contractors to negotiate work agreements in good faith.

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

At this time, these efforts may not be obvious to travelers who face long wait times to clear security as they pass through the YVR.

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