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Union protests firing of Victoria airport security screeners; agency alleges 'incomplete screening'

Twenty-seven screening officers and nine salaried employees at the airport were terminated following an investigation into “screening irregularities”
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Victoria International Airport arrival area. The union claims Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, responsible for passenger and baggage screening and screening airport workers, told the contractor, Allied Universal Security Services, that the employees were no longer permitted to provide services under the contract between CATSA and the employer. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

The union representing 27 Victoria International Airport security screeners who were fired last week says the Crown corporation responsible for passenger and baggage screening interfered in the employer’s decision to return the employees to work after an investigation.

The 27 screening officers and nine salaried employees at the airport were terminated following an investigation into “screening irregularities,” the union, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 16, said in a statement posted online.

The investigation by their employer, Allied Universal Security Services, determined that the fired employees’ conduct deviated from standard operating procedures, but did not require termination, and the company intended to return the majority of employees to work with training, the union said.

The 36 workers had been removed from the workplace in early January pending the investigation, said Tania Canniff, general chairperson for the union’s District Lodge 140.

The union claims Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which is responsible for passenger and baggage screening and screening airport workers, told Allied that the employees were no longer permitted to provide services under the contract between CATSA and Allied.

“The lack of procedural fairness is appalling and may lead to a dangerous precedent in future matters governed by the collective agreement and legislation,” Canniff said.

The union said it wouldn’t normally communicate with all of its members about the termination of personnel, but “the circumstances of these events compel this communication.”

The 36 fired employees represent more than 25 per cent of the screening staff at the airport, ­Canniff said, adding their departure puts pressure on remaining staff.

The union has appealed to the federal transport minister for help to overturn CATSA’s direction to the employer and allow the fired employees to return to work.

“Twenty-seven families have lost their ability to earn a living without an appeal, and that is shameful. We need the transport minister’s office to intervene,” Canniff said.

Transport Canada did not respond to questions about whether the transport minister would take any action on the matter, and referred questions to CATSA.

Suzanne Perseo, spokesperson for CATSA, said by email the Crown corporation initiated an investigation based on a complaint, and preliminary findings led to a more extensive investigation into screening operations at the airport in December and January.

The investigation identified “multiple instances of incomplete screening at a non-passenger checkpoint” by employees of Allied Universal, Perseo said.

“The findings indicate that the personnel involved did not fulfil their core responsibility to protect the travelling public,” she said.

CATSA advised Allied Universal that the services of those involved could not be billed to CATSA under the circumstances, but did not explicitly tell the employer to terminate the workers, she said.

Perseo did not answer a question about under what circumstances Allied Universal could have billed for the services going forward after the investigation.

She said security concerns prevent the Crown corporation from sharing details on the investigation.

Canniff said CATSA did not conduct its own investigation, but directed Allied Universal to investigate.

CATSA has been contracting to Allied Universal since November 2021, when the company took over security screening services at airports in B.C. and Yukon.

Rod Hunchak, Victoria International Airport spokesman, said he couldn’t comment on the issue, as it’s between CATSA and the contractor, but airline operations are unaffected. Hunchak referred questions to CATSA.

Allied Universal, which has offices across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Mexico among other countries, did not respond to an interview request.

According to its website, the company is currently hiring for two security screeners in Victoria at $22 to $25 per hour and a service delivery manager.

regan-elliott@timescolonist.com

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