Baggage screeners who face firings have until Friday to file challenges
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 15, 2011
More than half of 36 airport screeners who were told last week that they will be fired for allegedly failing to adequately screen baggage for explosives at Honolulu Airport have contacted union attorneys for representation.
Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a written statement Tuesday that 18 Transportation Security Administration baggage screeners have met with union attorneys. "NTEU's role is to ensure that affected TSA employees are treated fairly. The TSA officers have a right, under TSA rules, to review the evidence against them and respond to the allegations."
Two other TSA screeners have sought legal help from the American Federation of Government Employees, the other union seeking to be the exclusive bargaining agent for the nation's 43,000 TSA workers, including 750 in Hawaii. Balloting for exclusive bargaining rights will end June 21.
The 36 workers have until Friday to submit a response to the charges. The TSA then will take final action. If the federal agency proceeds with the firings, the workers have 30 days to appeal.
Kelley said because union attorneys were required to sign nondisclosure agreements before being given access to any TSA investigative reports or evidence underlying the matter. "It is not prudent to comment on individual cases," she said.
On Friday, when the TSA said that it was issuing "proposed termination" notices to 36 workers and suspending 12 other workers, Kelley said union workers were under pressure from airlines and supervisors to speed up the baggage screening procedures. The NTEU also has met with four of the 12 workers facing suspensions ranging from two weeks to 30 days.
Dave Borer, American Federation attorney in Washington, D.C., said TSA's action last week in releasing its senior leadership in Hawaii shows that fault appears to fall on the shoulders of management in the organization in Hawaii.
Five TSA managers who were given layoff notices last week included former Honolulu Police Department Deputy Chief Glen Kajiyama, who has been federal security director in Hawaii since 2007, and former HPD Maj. William Gulledge, assistant federal deputy director for screening in Hawaii. He joined TSA in 2003.
During the TSA's six-month investigation, 100 of the 750 TSA employees who work in Honolulu were interviewed, agency officials said last week.
Allegations surfaced in December when two TSA employees reported that luggage was allowed to go on flights without being screened or checked for explosives. The alleged misconduct affected a "limited number" of flights daily during the last few months of 2010, TSA officials said. The TSA officers worked at Lobby 4 at Honolulu Airport, which services 12 airlines.