|Issue No 115||12 October 2001|
Airports' Security Front Line Deserves Better
By Andrew Casey
Security guards and screeners on the front line in the struggle to ensure the safety of airlines and their passengers have met over the global terrorism crisis.
" Unfortunately little is done to ensure that airport security screeners have got the best training, best equipment and best conditions to keep this front line strong," LHMU Airport Security Union National Secretary Jeff Lawrence said.
LHMU Airport Security Union delegates from around Australia met this week to discuss the international security crisis and how security workers can help to create a safer environment for airline passengers.
" We've had a lot of talk about sky marshals battling terrorists in the air. It makes good headlines in an election atmosphere, but we'd all be better off if we got back to basics.
" John Howard should give priority to improved resources and training for airport screeners and security staff to detect and stop the instruments of terror getting onto our planes in the first place," Jeff Lawrence said.
" Our union members welcomed Kim Beazley's weekend security statement as it provides the basis for a comprehensive review of security arrangements.
" The LHMU will campaign around a plan to deliver the highest possible security standards and seek to meet with relevant agencies, Government bodies and airlines to discuss the union plan," Jeff Lawrence said.
Particular problems identified
The particular problems identified by security workers and screeners, and the LHMU plan devised to resolve these issues, include:
· Strict guidelines and regulations must be developed by the Australian Government and enforced by the Civil Aviation Safety authority( CASA) at all Australian Airports;
· Security contractors must comply with the minimum standards;
· Minimum formally accredited training standards must be developed by the government, with curriculum to be approved by the government, and audits regularly conducted to ensure training is being implemented;
· Wages and conditions for airport security officers should be reviewed immediately to ensure that they reflect the important role of security officers and improve the status of this important function:
· Ageing screeing equipment at most major airport should be urgently updated. This equipment is crucial to the proper detection of threatening substances before they are taken on to the aircraft;
· There should be a review of factors which create low morale amongst the workforce, including increasing casualisation, poor rostering arrangements and inadequate staffing levels, with a view to eliminating these practices.
Screeners and security staff are often the lowest paid workers within the airport terminal. Rates of pay are between $12.30 an hour and $13.04 an hour.
In Melbourne our union, after an aggressive campaign for proper recognition and pay for our members, won a 20pc pay increase which delivered up to $20 an hour for security guards at the Ansett terminal.
" If we are not prepared to act to change the status, and improve the pay, of these key workers we will continue to undermine our nation's ability to deliver security to all Australians using our airports," Jeff Lawrence said.
" Security companies and their employees are providing a service to clients - who are the airlines and the airport authorities. They are caught in a bind when these clients are not prepared to pay for the increasing costs of these services, or to spend money on the equipment necessary for the job.
" Our members in remote and regional areas of Australia are especially concerned that there is no screening of small and regional services due to a lack of preparedness by airlines to spend money on this basic security service.
Making an extra buck, or saving a life?
" Our members complain that too often commercial imperatives have become the priority at airports, rather than security," Jeff Lawrence said.
" The push to privatise airports - to make them into swanky shopping centres - has often meant our security screeners are under pressure from their managers, and the shop owners, to get people through fast, so airport visitors can spend more dollars at airport shops.
" In light of the US tragedy the airport privatisation program should be reconsidered. The government should carefully scrutinise all tenders for airport privatisation, especially those tender groups who include major retail chains and mall operators whose commercial interests may undermine the essential security needs of an airport.
" Making that extra buck should not take priority over saving the lives of human beings," Jeff Lawrence said.
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Workplace: The Enemy Within
In the IT industry it's the recruiters who are earning the workers' ire, as our special correspondent explains.
Unions: From the Virtual Coalface
Computer programmer Vince Caughley argues there is a place for unions in the IT industry.
History: Conditions Precedent
Frank Bongiorno writes that the recent events off the coast of Christmas Island recall a story once told by Paul Hasluck.
International: Victims of Terrorism
Repression against trade unionists on the increase world wide, with 209 trade unionists assassinated last year, reveals ICFTU 2001 Survey.
Campaign Diary: Week One: Get Shorty
Labor's first week of campaigning was as an effort to gain attention from a nation rocked by the telvised war on terrorism.
Economics: Global Alliances
Ray Marcelo reports from India that the ILO is arguing that globalisation needs a worker and employer alliance.
Health: The Phantom Menace
Trade unions made an impact this week at an international congress In Melbourne in the global fight against AIDS.
Review: Rings of Confidence
In his study on the 2000 Olympics, Tony Webb argues that the government and unions reached a new level of cooperation.
Satire: Greens 'Quietly Unconfident' of Forming Government
A leaked memo from a senior member of the Greens reveals the party is unconfident of winning government on November 10.
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