Canadian Security Magazine

CATSA addresses Garda layoffs at Pearson Airport

Linda Johnson   

News Transportation

A decision by Garda Security Group to lay off 68 airport screeners at Pearson International Airport does not threaten passenger security, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority says.

In a statement, Garda said it is also reducing the hours of 231 screeners to 20 a week. The company had already recently laid off 80 workers.

Mathieu Larocque, a spokesperson for CATSA, said security regulations are being followed and exceeded.

“We’re monitoring that very closely. There’s no compromise in terms of security,” he said. “On the contrary, the adjustments being made are designed to improve the security, the productivity, the customer service — to improve all aspects  — of the screening process, and that includes security.”

Garda would not comment on the decision but did release a statement, which read:

“As you are aware, airport screening operations have been affected by an adjustment in the number of available hours over the last several months. On Wednesday, January 11, 2012, we informed our union that we are reducing weekly hours, temporarily laying off 68 employees and reducing the number of hours of 231 employees to 20 hours per week. Garda will continue to deploy its efficiency model to minimize the impact on passengers.”

The layoffs are effective Jan. 25.

Larocque said the cuts are a result of last year’s RFP process, in which CATSA asked bidders to develop more efficient ways to provide security screening. In August 2011, CATSA announced that Garda would be awarded a screening contract for the Central Region (Ontario) up to $652,100,000 over five years.

“The new contracts started on Nov. 1, and I think we’re seeing Garda implementing that new business model that is designed to improve the productivity, be more cost-efficient and improve on the customer service front. This is a workforce adjustment that Garda is making,” he said.

CATSA does not hire or lay off officers, he added. It negotiates contracts with companies who are then responsible for meeting the agency’s targets for screening passengers.

“How the companies that have contracts with us meet these requirements is up to them. It’s up to them to manage their workforce to ensure that these targets are met and exceeded,” he said.

A combination of new regulations, technology and procedures adopted during the last two years has made security screening more efficient, Larocque said. These include full-body scanners; dedicated lanes for NEXUS (pre-approved, low risk) travellers, families and special needs passengers; new procedures at the metal detectors that have increased passenger flow; and new regulations allowing items such as small tools and scissors in carry-on bags.

In October, Garda suspended 74 screeners after they conducted a work-to-rule protest at Pearson. The company later won an injunction that barred further work slowdowns.

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