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Workers Point to Security Flaws at Canberra and Perth Airports


SMH, by Mario Christodoulou, 4 August 2017
 
Airport workers at Perth and Canberra airports say there are serious security holes made worse by understaffing and cost-cutting.

Passengers have been allowed to wander secure areas, ground staff have been allowed on their own without security checks, staff bags are not being checked properly and trucks are being allowed into secure areas without having their cargo inspected, according to staff..
 

A "push-truck" at Canberra Airport with a cracked windscreen. Photo: TWU
 
At the centre of many of the accusations is airport services company Aerocare, which said the claims were part of an "unprecedented campaign of dishonesty and bullying" by Transport Workers Union, which has previously attacked the company over its treatment of workers.
 
Staff claimed that photos of "push-back" trucks, which are used to tow planes, with badly cracked windshields, and a photo of staff standing on plastic barricades to guide incoming planes showed safety and security were not being taken seriously.
 

A view from the interior of the "push truck" with the cracked windscreen. Photo: TWU
 
In an incident in May at Perth Airport, passengers who had arrived from Adelaide were allowed into a secure area by an Aerocare staff member.
 
The worker was left to unload about 600 kilograms of oversized baggage from a waiting trolley on his own, frustrating nearby passengers waiting for their bags.
 
"Passengers were asking the staff member if they could help," an Aerocare worker with knowledge of the incident told Fairfax Media. "Initially he said no, but he was already under pressure himself and eventually they were out there helping themselves, and due to the numbers he wasn't able to secure the situation."
 
"Around 40 metres away you have international aircraft sitting at the bays ... If they wander away they have access to the aircraft."
 

A worker cleans a plane's windscreen at Brisbane Airport. Photo: TWU
 
The staff member, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he still worked at the company, said the incident was a serious security breach.
 
A Perth Airport spokesman said immediate action was taken by the airport to address the incident, which included removing the worker's access.
 
"A contained incident involving an Aerocare employee was identified at Perth Airport on 17 May 2017 ... The incident was investigated in accordance with Perth Airport's security operating procedures," the spokesman said.
 
Aerocare did not answer questions about the incident. The company said in a statement it had one of the best safety records of any baggage handler in Australia.
 
"In 25 years of handling more than 1 million flights, Aerocare is believed to be the only major baggage handler to be penalty-free for both aviation and workplace safety breaches," it said.
 
"Aerocare is proud of its record, ethics and integrity."
 
The worker said staff members were subject to light searches when they went into work.
 
"When we go through to air side, the security company, they don't do a full bag check," he said.
 
"Security have a quick look inside but they don't go into any depth, there's an air of familiarity. We often joked about being able to get anything through."
 
Perth Airport said it complied with the requirements for security checks of airport workers.
 
At Canberra Airport, ground staff said high staff turnover rates meant new workers were being allowed into secure areas without proper security checks. New employees were commonly issued Visitor Identity Cards (VICs) while they were waiting for their security pass, which could take weeks to process.
 
While using VICs they are supposed to be escorted by a security-card holder, due to staffing levels, workers are often left on their own.
 
"They have to be accompanied and they quite often haven't been," one Canberra Airport worker said. "They have been left by themselves and that's a risk because you don't really know this person."
 
"It's massive amount of new people and when you have new people turn up, that's an issue."
 
A spokeswoman from Canberra Airport spokeswoman said claims that VIC holders were allowed on their own were "emphatically incorrect".
 
"There is no history of which we are aware of an instance where they have been fined for a VIC holder not being supervised," she said. "There is a strict patrol and check process by AFP, our security contractor, and ABF officers."
 
"There is a comprehensive and rigid regime for policing and checking VICs, and there have been no issues at Canberra Airport with VIC holders generally nor with Aerocare VIC holders."
 
Aerocare did not respond to questions about the supervision of VIC holders.
 
A Canberra Airport worker said trucks were able to get through into secure areas at a particular point without their loads being checked and, at times, without passengers having their security clearance checked.
 
Canberra Airport said would not comment on detailed security procedures but said it complied with security standards.
 
Earlier in the week the Transport Workers Union said airport security was being put at risk because of poor pay and conditions at airports.
 

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