Air traffic controllers sue Trump administration over government shutdown

Air traffic controllers sue Trump administration over government shutdown

TSA acknowledges that more screeners are calling in sick at some airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth International.

A union that represents thousands of USA air traffic controllers filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Friday claiming its failure to pay the workers during an ongoing partial government shutdown could endanger the safety of passengers.

As "essential" federal employees, TSA agents have been showing up for work without payment for almost a month at one of the lowest paying and most thankless jobs in the airport industry, according to Money.

President of the T.S.A. Council of the American Federation of Government Employees, Hydrick Thomas, said that "extreme financial hardship" has caused workers to resign.

"If this keeps up there are problems that will arise - least of which would be increased wait times for travellers".

The AFGE Local 554 held a rally in front of the Domestic North Terminal of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Thursday afternoon. As the shutdown enters its third week, TSA Assistant Administrator Michael Bilello tweeted that "security standards remain uncompromised" and the vast majority of passengers waited less than 30 minutes at security checkpoints.

He added that there had been no spike in employees quitting and that on Tuesday 5 percent of officers took unscheduled leave, up just slightly from 3.9 percent the same day a year ago.

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But U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, questioned how long adequate staffing at airports could continue. "If not for the shutdown, NATCA members would have begun to receive direct deposit of their pay into their accounts as of this morning".

"TSA officers are among the lowest paid federal employees, with many living pay cheque to pay cheque", he wrote.

Even before the shutdown, controllers have been working six-day weeks and 10-hour days at numerous country's busiest airports, NACTA's president Paul Rinaldi said, adding: "This staffing crisis is negatively affecting the National Airspace System, and the shutdown nearly certainly will make a bad situation worse".

TSA has brought on about 500 new officers since the shutdown with 300 more expected to start later this month.

While air traffic control operations by the Federal Aviation Administration and airport screenings by the Transportation Security Administration have continued during the funding lapse, that work is being done by federal employees who are not getting paid.

Federal Aviation Administration Academy in Oklahoma City has been closed as a result of the shutdown and simulator trainings have been disrupted.

NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said controllers often must work overtime and six-day weeks at short-staffed locations.

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