Last updated: 03:54 PM ET, Tue November 22 2016

Union Questions New JFK Safety Regulations

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | November 22, 2016

Union Questions New JFK Safety Regulations

PHOTO: Going through security at JFK International. (Courtesy Thinkstock)

A day after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Department of Homeland Security announced new safety regulations at John F. Kennedy International Airport, the largest property service union in the country questioned whether the new initiatives go far enough.

“Governor Cuomo’s new emergency preparedness training for airport workers recognizes that all airport workers have an important role to play during safety emergencies,” 32BJ SEIU, which represents some 8,000 airport workers, said in a statement. “However, while long overdue, the proposed training does not go nearly far enough and risks providing the public with a false sense of security. The plan, as currently proposed, insufficiently treats only one symptom of local airport security – the need for training of airport workers – and completely ignores the root of the problem: the inadequate working conditions of thousands of airport workers and the resulting high levels of employee turnover.”

Cuomo and the DHS announced the new regulations on Tuesday, three months after JFK was evacuated after false reports of an active shooter at the airport.

The noise was later determined to have come from a terminal bar and restaurant from patrons reacting to a play while watching a sporting event on television.

Cuomo and the DHS recommend that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey establish a central command center for the distribution of information after apparent poor communications during the incident led to mass panic.

In addition, airport workers will undergo new mandatory training to better assist passengers during emergencies.

READ MORE: JFK Evacuated After False Reports Of Gunfire

The union said both issues “are the outcome of business decisions made by airline carriers and tolerated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that reduce service, security and maintenance costs at our airports at the expense of public safety and comfort.”

32BJ SEIU advocates for a $15 an hour wage, which it says would help solve some of the turnover problems.

“Poverty wages and few-to-no benefits lead to high turnover rates at our airports, making it impossible for passengers and the public to benefit from a trained workforce,” the union said. “When airport personnel are paid higher wages, given benefits and are required to complete a longer, 40-hour training we see employees who are more experienced with and knowledgeable of airport facilities, operations, safety and emergency protocols. Inadequate working conditions and standards also place an additional economic burden on the public as tax payers indirectly subsidize airline carriers whose contracted workers rely on public assistance to survive.”

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