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"'Significantly' high attrition for Canadian airport screening officers in Alberta: report"
Saturday, December 22, 2007
'Significantly' high attrition for airport screening officers in Alberta:
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA - Federal officials are offering special cost-of-living allowances
and bonuses to help combat "significantly" high attrition rates among
airport screening officers in Alberta, says a newly released report.
Stress from unruly passengers and the lure of better jobs in the oil patch
are pushing turnover rates as high as 35 per cent, says the internal
document from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
"In the past year, CATSA has experienced significantly high screening
officer attrition rates in Edmonton (YEG) and Calgary (YYC) airports," says
the April 2007 report, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to
"The main reasons given are: higher paying jobs in the oil sector and stress
related to their jobs," which includes demands from Transport Canada
inspectors and rude travellers.
The agency has censored actual attrition rates in the released document,
citing a section of the act that permits the removal of any "information
that could reasonably facilitate the commission of an offence."
However, a special report last December by Auditor General Sheila Fraser
indicated that Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg suffered 2006 screener
attrition rates of between 26.4 per cent and 34.6 per cent. Toronto, by
contrast, had a 6.5 per cent rate.
"If a worker is not satisfied with their current employment, the worker can
leave that employment and find comparable employment in less than a day,"
says the CATSA document, referring to Alberta.
The agency does not employ screening officers directly, but contracts out
the work to private firms who must adhere to national standards.
Attrition levels have also been high at the Fort McMurray, Alta., airport,
prompting CATSA to launch a pilot program in April 2005 that topped up wages
with a monthly cost-of-living allowance directly from Ottawa.
Turnover dropped significantly, and the agency extended the program to
Calgary and Edmonton last June.
In addition, CATSA is offering performance bonuses to screening contractors
across Canada who meet certain targets, which include reducing turnover
"It's too early to tell whether these measures have had a significant effect
on the (attrition) rates," agency spokesman Mathieu Larocque said in an
"We're confident they will improve. . . . Time will tell."
Fraser's report warned that shortages of screening officers in Western
Canada were forcing private contractors to take steps that could increase
risks. They required more overtime work, for example, increasing fatigue;
they put rookies without full security clearances on the screening line; and
they doubled up functions, so that one officer carried out the duties of
But Larocque said airport security has not been compromised, and steps had
been taken to resolve the auditor general's concerns.
"There are standards set by the government of Canada, and these standards
are always met," he said.
"It's more challenging - that we acknowledge. But they are being met."
The CATSA report notes that high turnover is a direct cost to the agency,
which foots the $1,000 bill for each uniform and the $4,000 in training
costs for each worker.
"The Alberta boom is expected to continue for many years," says the
document. "If this high screening-officer attrition trend continues . . .
the cost to CATSA will be significant."
There are about 300 screening-officer positions in Calgary and about 250 in
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