Nova Scotia

New security training methods at Halifax airport 'underhanded,' says commissionaire

Commissionaires Nova Scotia, which provided security at the airport for 56 years, was outbid for the contract by security company G4S in September.

Commissionaires Nova Scotia was outbid for the contract by G4S in September

Commissionaires have provided security at the airport for 56 years. (CBC)

The company taking over security from commissionaires at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport is using "underhanded" methods to train new employees, says the president of the union local representing the current guards.

Gary Toohey, head of Local 85100 of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said G4S Canada has invited commissionaires to come in on their time off and train new, inexperienced security staff.

G4S is due to start providing airport security next month.

Toohey said the private security firm previously approached Commissionaires Nova Scotia and asked them to provide on-the-job training for security guards — a request that was flatly denied.

"We said, 'No, that's not going to happen,'" said Toohey, adding the airport authority supported the commissionaires' stand not to train workers who would be taking over their jobs.

G4S's response has soured Toohey.

"I just thought it was underhanded, the way they went about things."

Taking up G4S's offer

G4S said only one person has agreed to offer the training in their personal time.

"That training has been done on a voluntary basis, and they will be paid," said Katie McLeod, the company's national director of communications.

Commissionaires Nova Scotia, which provided security at the airport for 56 years, was outbid for the contract by G4S Security.

G4S won the contract even though it had no staff. Its plan was to hire as many commissionaires as it could.

Toohey said about 45 per cent of his co-workers are "patching over" to G4S.

G4S says new hires will be ready Jan. 1

Toohey said the commissionaire doing the training for G4S is covering everything from terrorism to explosives to vehicle inspection.

He questioned G4S's claim that it will have a full security staff ready to go when it takes over Jan. 1.

All new hires will need to be approved by Transport Canada for a special security pass, a process that can take anywhere from four to six months.

McLeod said G4S will be ready.

"Yes, we will," she said. "That is our expectation."

Commissionaires Nova Scotia currently provides the airport with 161 security guards — 95 of them work full time. They patrol the parking lots, monitor gates and keep watch over the security camera monitors.


Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.