Thursday, 24 January, 2019

US House committee queries airport staffing during shutdown

A Transportation Security Administration worker screens passengers and airport employees at O'Hare International Airport As shutdown continues and TSA agents call out sick, agency preps contingency plan
Priscilla Morrison | 08 January, 2019, 15:50

The TSA's announcement comes following a Friday CNN report that claimed hundreds of TSA workers were calling out sick and staging a "sickout" amid the government shutdown.

An employee with the Transportation Security Administration checks the documents of a traveler at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C., January 6, 2019.

TSA said it would respond to the letter but added that "publicly providing numbers of those who call out sick represents a security concern".

"We are grateful to the more than 51,000 agents across the country who remain focused on the mission and are respectful to the traveling public as they continue the important work necessary to secure the national's transportation systems", said TSA spokesman Michael Bilello. "Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change".

According to his tweet, 5.5 percent of the agency's workforce at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport called out sick on Friday compared to the usual 3.5 percent.

Thousands of federal employees in South Florida are dealing with the effects of the partial government shutdown and figuring out how to make ends meet.

Hydrick Thomas, president of the TSA union under the American Federation of Government Employees, told The Washington Post, "they are not coming to work because they don't have the money to get to work". ABC News' calls and emails to union officials have gone unanswered. "In prior shutdowns, Congress agreed to back pay, but there is no such guarantee now".

More news: Jason Dalton pleads guilty to Kalamazoo shooting spree

Images of long lines at LaGuardia Airport in NY on Sunday evening raised concerns about staffing shortages.

"Nationwide, TSA screened approximately 2.22 million passengers yesterday (Sunday), a historically busy day due to holiday travel".

Airports are conducting talks with local TSA managers about finding ways to bolster TSA staffing, he said. About 90 percent of passengers waited less than 15 minutes, TSA said.

Airport officials said no unusual screening delays were being experienced at JFK, Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports, or Miami International Airport.

Air traffic controllers are also working without pay, and National Transportation Safety Board investigators aren't able to deploy to accidents, like a deadly small plane crash in MI last week.

The TSA said in a statement that call outs that began over the holiday period have increased.

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