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Overwork, low pay reasons for YVR screening staff shortage

Arriving more than three hours at the airport is recommended for international travellers.
Multiple Metro Vancouver, B.C. residents say they waited in long lines at YVR due to staff shortages. There have been many flight delays and cancellations.

Long lineups at the Vancouver airport are a result of YVR's screening agency overworking and underappreciating its employees, according to the union representing security screening employees.

Two weekends ago, many travellers missed or were close to missing their flights at YVR as the wait time to get to the start of the security checkpoint were as long as 40 minutes.

“Staffing shortages have been an issue at airports for months, yet, employers have been slow to address reasons behind this,” said Dave Flowers, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) District 140.

Security screening workers at YVR airport are hired under a third-party contractor, Allied Universal, and are employed by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), which is the agency responsible for passenger and luggage screening at YVR and other airports.

On the IAMAW website, Flowers added that members are “being asked to do more with less” while working in environments with low morale.

“The IAMAW knows this to be true: our members are overworked and underappreciated,” he states.

Recruitment, training and employee retention are several reasons contributing to the labour shortage, and ultimately the responsibility for huge wait times falls on the employers, according to the union.

“Our message is clear: long lineups are a result of employers’ failure to plan for a resurgence in air travel and ensure staffing levels matched passenger volumes,” said Flowers.

Meanwhile, CATSA said it is “actively supporting” its screening contractors to help with hiring and training more staff, according to Sandra Alvarez, media spokesperson for CATSA

“These challenges are being addressed with the ongoing ramp-up of staffing and continued information-sharing and cooperation among airport and airline partners,” said Alvarez.

Before the pandemic, CATSA employees and other resources were being shuffled between the transborder, domestic and international checkpoints where they were needed to help with peak travel times, she added.

“As air travel recovers, we are observing simultaneous peaks, which can result in passengers flooding more than one security checkpoint at a time, making the redistribution of resources to address these passenger volumes more challenging.”

Passengers travelling through Canadian airports are encouraged to arrive well in advance such as two hours for domestic and three hours for international flights.

“We apologize for the inconvenience this brings to air travellers and ask that passengers show patience and understanding with screening personnel, who are doing their best to move air travellers through the screening process as quickly as possible while ensuring their safety and security.”