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Airport security agents’ union responds to Global News investigation about screening complaints

Click to play video: 'Global News Investigates: complaints against CATSA at Edmonton airport' Global News Investigates: complaints against CATSA at Edmonton airport
WATCH: Global News used access for information laws and found more than 200 complaints against CATSA at the Edmonton International Airport over a three-year period. Julia Wong explains what they were and has suggestions for travellers – Dec 16, 2019

The union representing airport security agents said their job is “thankless” and re-emphasized that the number of complaints made against agents in Edmonton is minute.

Christopher Monette, director of public affairs with Teamsters Canada, spoke in response to a Global News investigation that analyzed complaints made against agents with the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA).

READ MORE: Global News Investigates: Agent behaviour, wait times dominate screening complaints at Edmonton airport

“It needs to be said airport screeners have a tremendously important but thankless, underappreciated job. They ensure our national security. They help keep the skies safe,” Monette said.

Global News analyzed 211 complaints made against CATSA in Edmonton between 2016 and 2018 and found that 52 per cent of them related to long wait times and agent behaviour.

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The complaints ranged from agents who yelled at passengers, threatened them with being able to make their flights, and unpacked underwear from a carry-on so “everyone walking past could see.”

Monette said 23.5 million passengers were screened at the Edmonton airport over the three-year period and the complaints make up a tiny percentage.

“I think this speaks to a level of excellence, frankly, that our members can be proud of,” he said.

READ MORE: Canada’s air passenger ‘bill of rights’ comes into effect Monday. Here’s what it means for you

An earlier statement from CATSA said it investigated each of the 211 complaints and that complaints requiring the reprimand of a screening officer were infrequent.

“We don’t know if any of these complaints were actually founded. I’ve spoken with union representatives on the ground at the Edmonton International Airport. They had trouble thinking of more than one or two cases where these situations were actually founded and where a member was found to be at fault,” Monette said.

He said screening agents also endure a “tremendous level” of verbal abuse from passengers, saying it is a daily occurrence.

“We like to think we’re giving fairly good service to passengers at the Edmonton International Airport,” he said.

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Monette said screening agents receive a lot of training from CATSA and, when asked what the agency could do to make the experience better for both travellers and agents, said CATSA should continue with the investments it has been making.

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