The Federal Government plans to spend $293 million on screening upgrades at regional airports and for air cargo, and to increase police and border security presence at major airports. But high turnover of workers and deliberate understaffing is leaving airports vulnerable, with security breaches a daily occurrence, said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
“Turnover among airport workers is so high that some staff are accessing secure parts of the airports without proper security clearance. This turnover rate is a direct result of low pay, forced part time work, poor working conditions and it is undermining skills and vigilance at airports. Deliberate understaffing and chronic fatigue due to split shifts is also creating an environment where security is being severely compromised,” Sheldon added.
Workers were revealed last year to be sleeping at airports because of split shifts and low pay. Ground-handling company Aerocare, which employs 3,000 workers, deliberately understaff its operations with passengers at Perth airport allowed airside during an incident last year to collect their own luggage after a baggage handler was left alone to unload an entire aircraft. The staff member was disciplined but not the company.
“If the Government is serious about airport security then it must start holding airports and airlines to account over the quality of employment in their supply chains. We cannot expect to have a robust security system through increased screening alone. Frontline staff at our airports must be well trained, security cleared and be paid fairly for the important job they carry out,” Sheldon added.
The ACCC recently in its annual monitoring report showed the four main airports in Australia made $2 billion profit in 2016-17.