HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Airport Line Ups, Chaos Expected to Last Through Christmas: Unions

Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Toronto Pearson International Airport.

The terrible, midday Saturday storm that devastated much of southern Ontario and Quebec on the weekend, causing flight cancellations, combined with a spike in traffic for the Victoria Day long weekend, created, well… a ‘perfect storm’ for chaos at YYZ.

If it was a one-off scenario, the travel industry might not worry too much. These things happen. People understand.

But in reality, the holiday weekend / crippling storm impact on airport operations comes on top of now-infamous delays in processing outbound pax through security and inbound international arrivals through border controls that have been plaguing even ‘regular’ traffic days over the last few weeks.

Unions for security workers in Canada’s busiest airports say: it could get worse before it gets better.

A report in The Star quotes Catherine Cosgrove of Teamsters Canada saying that airport delays due to labour shortages are “here to stay for the long-term.”

The union represents around 1,000 GardaWorld airport security screeners across Canada. GardaWorld is one of the third party companies contracted by CATSA (the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) to do that work in Canada’s airports.

“We envisage continued delays through the summer, fall and even through to next Christmas,” Cosgrove said.

Unions like Teamsters representing CATSA screeners say that CATSA didn’t appear to be prepared for the increase in airport traffic that hit once pandemic travel restrictions were eased last month.

Canada’s Transport Minister insists progress is being made, with a spokesperson for Omar Alghabra saying, “CATSA has recently hired 400 new screening officers who are going through various stages of training. We are continuing to work closely with CATSA, CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) and air sector partners to support the industry as (the) level of travel increases.”

But, according to the unions, not only is CATSA understaffed - its workers are “underpaid and overworked.”

“The increased passenger loads have only made the working conditions more difficult,” Dave Flowers told The Star this week.

The president of District 140 at the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents around 4,000 airport security workers in B.C. and Ontario, says simply hiring more workers may not solve the labour shortage as its members are being “pushed to the brink,” contributing to problems with worker retention.

A spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airport authority (GTAA) warns it could get worse before it gets better as summer travel heats up within weeks.

“Over the next few weeks as passenger volumes continue to increase, there is an urgent need to effectively manage passenger loads and enable recovery at Toronto Pearson,” said Ryan White.

Lynn Elmhirst

Editor

With a background in broadcast news and travel lifestyles TV production, Lynn is just as comfortable behind or in front of the camera as she is slinging words into compelling stories at her laptop. Having been called a multi-media ‘content charmer’, Lynn’s other claim to fame is the ability to work 24/7, forgoing sleep until the job is done. Documented proof exists in a picture of Lynn at the closing celebrations of an intense week, standing, champagne in hand - sound asleep. That’s our kind of gal.

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