Isle airports lose
242 security jobs

Nationwide, 6,000 passenger
screeners are cut to save money

A federal agency will lay off 242 full-time Hawaii airport screeners by Sept. 30 due to budget constraints.

The Transportation Security Administration announced yesterday it will lay off 6,000 of its 55,600 total screener work force nationally. Locally there are 1,183 screeners.

Half the cuts will be made by May 31, the other half by Sept. 30. Honolulu Airport will lose 65 of its 655 screeners, Lihue 15 of 99, Molokai 12 of 31, Hilo 15 of 66, Kona 41 of 104. None of Lanai's 19 will be lost. Kahului will take the biggest hit with a 44 percent reduction, losing 94 of its 209 screeners.

The Department of Homeland Security agency said about $280 million would be saved with the layoffs. TSA noted it is working to meet a May 16 congressional deadline to reimburse air carriers $2.3 billion in airline security fees.

State transportation and federal TSA officials say the action should not severely affect the time it takes to screen passengers.

"The bottom line is, we have to be more efficient, but we're not going to compromise security," said Sidney Hayakawa, TSA Honolulu federal security director.

TSA West Coast and Pacific regional spokesman Nico Melendez said it is too early to tell whether the reduction will mean longer lines for passengers at airports.

"We're committed to keeping security checkpoint lines to less than 10 minutes (nationwide)," he said, adding that the average nationwide wait time is six to eight minutes.

"I'm going to try to lose them through attrition," Hayakawa said. "We have what we call personnel actions in the pipeline."

They include those who have been asked to be terminated and those who have resigned or asked to be transferred to other airports.

Nationwide, TSA has experienced attrition at a rate of 5 percent to 6 percent, or 700 jobs a month.

An undisclosed number of part-time positions also will be offered to full-time screeners being cut. Screeners may choose to transfer to airports where there is a shortage, such as Orlando, Fla., and Pago Pago, American Samoa.

Most full-time screeners were hired in October and November, although some part-timers were hired recently, Hayakawa said.

TSA was created in November 2001 to provide greater security at U.S. airports in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"While we still live in a dangerous world, it is also time to assess our workplace requirements in relation to budget realities," said Adm. James Loy, TSA administrator, in a news release.

"This means looking at the level of screener staffing at every airport, how many are part time, how many are full time and whether they are on duty at the right time, when passenger traffic is heaviest."

TSA plans to have law enforcement officers patrol rather than remain fixed at security checkpoints, allowing them to be more visible and to provide extensive surveillance, Loy said.

TSA also is providing federal assistance for the permanent installation of bomb detection equipment at 20 airports, Loy said.

Hayakawa said Honolulu Airport will be receiving such equipment, and the agency is working with the state and the airlines to figure out where to put the equipment.

Hayakawa met one-on-one yesterday with three-quarters of the Honolulu screeners. "I didn't want to just give them a letter," he said. "It was hard for me. They've really supported me from day one."

Some have asked to transfer to other federal agencies, which is allowable if they qualify, he said.

In addition to the layoffs, Loy also announced a hiring cap for professional and administrative positions at airports and TSA headquarters.


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