Airport workers to lose their jobs

May 4, 2011 8:49:09 PM PDT
With the threat of retaliation for Osama bin Laden's killing -- and with federal officials saying they're increasing security at airports -- you may wonder why the city of Houston is laying off employees at Bush Intercontinental Airport. More than 100 people were given pink slips Wednesday. Employees are receiving pink slips at the airport, having had no prior knowledge they were about to lose their jobs. The layoffs are expected to save the city about $3 million but aren't related to the budget-related layoffs happening across the city.

"I think they're a set of eyes, that's what's important, to be able to look and see what's wrong," traveler R.J. Macha said.

The union president says while their job elimination is unfortunate, he does not believe it will affect safety at the airports.

Several so-called "yellow shirt" security workers are leaving Bush Intercontinental Airport with notices telling them they no longer have a job. About 130 city-employed workers will be told they are being laid off by the end of Wednesday, according to their union. About 72 of the employees who will be laid off are part of the "yellow shirt" team.

"These people don't carry guns, they won't tackle somebody ... they're going to get on the phone and call the police officers stationed out there to take care of that problem," Mayor Annise Parker Spokeswoman Janice Evans says.

The total layoffs equate to about five percent of the operations performed by city employees, according to the union. They are being told they have 45 days of pay and benefits. There are concerns among union members that as people are eliminated their jobs will be given to privatized contractors who are cheaper to hire. These employees make an average of $10 per hour.

It's disappointing to many workers who took voluntary furloughs and are still losing their jobs. They work in various positions all over the airport, including security, baggage handling and administration.

However, the city of Houston won't confirm anything about the layoffs except that they are occurring. The union president was so concerned he came to the airport to meet with people who are losing their jobs.

"This is a bad time to get laid off. Certain families, certain employees are hurt by it. A lot of them gave voluntary furloughs and now there's a layoff. They're very affected by it. They don't know what they're going to do," said H.O.P.E. Union President Melvin Hughes. "I told them we're going to stand with them. This union will stand by them and make sure they are treated fairly, and, most of all, that the operations of this airport will not be affected security-wise. We'll stand by to make sure that the number is five percent."

But Evans says some of those laid off employees may qualify for actual security jobs they plan to add through a contract company.

In a comment to reporters earlier Wednesday, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said, "Personnel that we know we're not going to have the revenue available to support, they are receiving their layoff notices early. Those that we are attempting to work through, some of them will receive their layoff notices later in the process."

As for these positions, we do not have any specific information about them.

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