TSA workers calling in sick amid shutdown, union says; DHS denies

07 January, 2019, 08:47 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Transportation Security Administration officers screening passengers at the Los Angeles International Airport on Jan 5 2019

TSA employees are still required to work, despite not receiving a paycheck during the government shutdown.

TSA screeners now working at airports across the country are doing so without collecting a paycheck, thanks to the government shutdown.

Sarah Burgisser, who works for one of the airlines, said early Saturday morning passengers were waiting hours to get through security.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport typically has only 25 to 30 TSA employees call out sick each day; now, those call-outs are up 200 to 300 percent, a local TSA official told CNN.

In a tweet, DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton accused the network of failing to validate its data and not reaching out to agency officials for verification.

The Department of Homeland Security press secretary said this is all a bunch of bologna.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials played down concerns the government shutdown poses a threat to safety at major airports, but warned that the second half of next week could be crucial if workers do not get paid.

There are 51,739 members of the Transportation Security Administration's airport security screening workforce, according to TSA spokesman Michael Bilello.

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Numerous employees are forced to call out because they can no longer afford childcare without a paycheck, or need to use the time they would be working for the TSA to earn money they can use to pay rent or other living expenses.

Screening wait times could be affected due to the number of absent agents, the statement said. That means leaving plenty of time to get to the airport, check in, make it through security and get to your gate.

"Security effectiveness will not be compromised and performance standards will not change", he told the Times.

The TSA, meanwhile, tweeted a more measured response that said employee absences began over the holidays but have had minimal impact on security operations.

"TSA is grateful to the agents who show up to work, remain focused on the mission and respectful to the traveling public as they continue the important work necessary to secure the nation's transportation systems", the agency said. The normal call-in rate is 3.5 per cent, and yesterday it increased to 5.5 per cent, according to TSA.

Trump planned to meet with congressional leaders at 11 a.m. Saturday for more negotiations. Reports say the impasse could possibly last weeks to years.

In what one official dubbed the "blue flu", hundreds of blue-uniformed TSA officials have been calling out sick in recent days as the shutdown stretches on and their salaries go unpaid. "If you're not seeing long wait times at airports, there's something on the security side they're not doing".

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