Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Markets | By Otis Pena

Aviation workers say government shutdown 'needlessly risks' safety in the skies

Aviation workers say government shutdown 'needlessly risks' safety in the skies

The partial government shutdown could start having a noticeable impact on air travel if the situation isn't resolved soon, industry and employee groups are warning. TSA agents are on the lower end of the federal pay scale, earning between $36,000 and $43,000 annually.

Two federal officials who spoke with CNN on Friday said officers were calling out sick in protest of the expectation that they work without paychecks until the Trump administration and Congress make a deal to end the shutdown.

Employees with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) walk through Reagan National Airport in Washington.

Starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Concourse G will close and about a dozen departing flights will be moved to nearby terminals.

"We demand the highest safety and security standards for our transportation network, and rightfully so", Willis said.

The AFGE Local 554 held a rally in front of the Domestic North Terminal of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Thursday afternoon.

Willis noted the nation's air traffic control system, for example, is already understaffed and said workers not getting paid is causing "incredible stress".

"Our inspectors are the oversight, they are the regulatory side of the house for the FAA", said Mike Perrone, president of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists union.

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TSA spokesman Jim Gregory said officials are managing.

"As the lines slow down and the crowds grow larger, it puts more and more passengers at risk from an attack", Price said.

Longer lines will alienate travelers and could push more airports to replace government employees with privately contracted screening agents.

The shutdown is already affecting some airport operations, though no problems have been reported yet in Chicago.

Mike Boyd, a consultant to airports, said TSA leaders will do what they can to streamline the screening process, which he called "pretty much of a veneer" even before the government shutdown. The TSA said the effect was "minimal".

"America wants its air traffic controllers to be laser-focused on landing planes safely and monitoring America's runways, not distracted by financial issues and anxiety of financial instability", the union said in the lawsuit.

Approximately 51,000 TSA officers are among the 800,000 government employees who are either working unpaid or on furlough and are set to miss their first full paychecks this week.

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