Wednesday, October 28, 2009

High Security Staff Turnover at US Airports

US airports are suffering from a high turnover of security staff working at security checkpoints.

According to USA Today, one-in-five security staff are leaving their jobs on an annual basis - despite a much-publicised incentive programme.

Between October 2006 and September 2007, the newspaper reported, some 20% of the 46,000 security staff employed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airports across the US, left their jobs.

Some senior figures in airport security are reported to be concerned at the high level of staff turnover, which they say is impacting on efficiency levels and the overall standard of security being offered.

Clark Ervin, a former Homeland Security inspector, said: "[The] turnover is pretty high. You want people as sharp and as experienced as possible, and that's why it is a concern".

One security screener who has recently left her job claimed that airport security checkpoints are "chronically short-handed".

Airport Security Workers 'Paid Less'

Several reasons have been given for the high turnover rate.

One is the length of the training programme, which at 180 hours takes up to a year.

Another is the fact that many of the security checkpoint staff are part-time rather than full-time, meaning that they cannot manage changes in shift patterns and therefore leave.

The TSA also believes that, quite simply, people underestimate the challenge of working as a security screener.

TSA deputy administrator Gale Rossides said: "It is frequently not the job they expected. [It] is much more physically demanding than they expected".

Many security workers also claim low pay and tough working conditions are to blame.

Screeners salaries are still lower than comparable jobs - such as police - in other federal services according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
US Airport Security Workers Pay and Benefits

The debate about staff turnover at US airports is not new.

As far back as 2000, a Congress report stated that "the rapid turnover among screeners has been a long-standing problem that affects [security] performance".

The turnover issue was recognised in April 2006, when the TSA launched a $100 million incentive programme to improve pay and benefits to full-time security screeners. Last October, a similar programme was launched for the TSA's part-time staff.

Commenting on the report, the TSA recognised the turnover rate, but a spokeswoman said it was "manageable" and pointed to the fact that it was far higher in the 1990s.

Source - Airport International's US Correspondent

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