26 September 2023

Airport crowds unsafe says PS union

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The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has slammed conditions at the country’s major airports, saying understaffing has led to blowouts in processing times, passenger frustration, and an unsafe working environment.

Speaking on behalf of its members at the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, the CPSU said since borders reopened, airport checks had increased to include confirmation of COVID-19 vaccination status — but staffing had failed to keep up.

“Home Affairs members working at Sydney airport, who continue to work to a COVID limited roster, have reported blowouts in processing times from 40 seconds to between six-to-nine minutes per passenger,” the union said in a statement.

“The delays have led managers to deny breaks to officers working long shifts on processing lines, and workers skipping duty collections potentially worth millions of dollars.”

It said that at the same time, problems plaguing the Digital Passenger Declaration were creating even more work, with members estimating up to 75 per cent of passengers being unable to properly complete the digital declaration, requiring manual processing by a Home Affairs officer.

“Staffing issues are also creating major problems for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment at airports where biosecurity officers working in arrival halls say there are major problems filling vacancies and a lack of staff available to cover workers on leave,” the CPSU said.

“Officers report that it is not uncommon for six-to-seven people to be absent at one time from a team of 15, leaving an insufficient number of workers processing hundreds of arrivals.”

Deputy President of the CPSU, Brooke Muscat said the risks to worker safety were unacceptable.

“They’re working above and beyond their limits to make sure passenger and cargo checks are getting done, but it’s not sustainable or fair,” Ms Muscat said.

“We need these Departments to increase staffing and support to make sure workers, passengers, and our biosecurity are protected.”

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