TSA: Fixing hiring problems slowly

Transportation Security Administration officials have been working to improve hiring practices for airport screeners since 2002, when its transition from contractual help to a federal workforce went into effect.

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, recently asked TSA to quickly resolve complaints from screeners "who believe they were mistreated during the early phases of federalization of the screener function." In a letter to the agency, he underscored problems with the grievance process, internal communications and hiring snags. Screeners who were hired by private companies and then wanted federal jobs were caught in a Catch-22, Davis complained.

"According to some unsuccessful applicants, TSA managers told them they could not file a complaint because they were not federal employees," Davis said. "Some screeners contend they were unable to meet deadlines because they were unaware of the deadlines."

A spokesman for Davis said that TSA officials

have significantly improved

the complaint procedures process, but noted that "what is left is a dissemination problem — letting people know about it."

One instance of the communication gap involves officials' recent decision to give priority until July to contractual screeners who were privately employed and then reapplied for open screener positions.

Committee members are urging TSA to publicize this information, as well as the preference for veterans provided under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. But according to Davis' spokesman, the agency has yet to do so.

"This was a problem that occurred in 2002 when we were hiring thousands of people every week," said TSA spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan. But some, like Peter Winch, national organizer for the American Federation of Government Employees, say the problem is current.

"It's nice that [Davis] gives [TSA] a pat on the back before kicking them around, but they really don't deserve the pat on the back," Winch said. "It's been several years now. If anything, the screeners' situation is getting worse."

At the end of 2002, TSA had reviewed more than 1.7 million applications and hired and trained more than 55,000 employees. During the first step of the hiring process in 2003, O'Sullivan said TSA received 851 informal complaints.

***

TSA's making progress

Number of complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by airport screeners who object to the Transportation Security Administration's hiring process:

904 complaints pending in January

257 complaints pending in March

Source: House Government Reform Committee

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