Toronto airport lines back to normal after managers step in

Dozens of security screeners working at Toronto's Pearson airport face suspension, following major delays Tuesday blamed on an apparently deliberate work disruption by staff at security checkpoints.

74 screeners to face suspension, fines by private security firm

Travellers line up at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Tuesday morning. (Sandra Porteous/CBC)

A security backlog at Toronto's Pearson International Airport has cleared up and dozens of screening employees will be reprimanded, following major delays in which travellers reported long lineups as they waited for pre-flight screening Tuesday morning.

Hundreds of people had formed long lines at Pearson earlier in the day, in an apparent repeat of delays last week that were blamed on job action by security screeners.

To ease the jams, officials brought in additional staff and managers and also removed screeners who appeared to be intentionally slowing down the process. By 12:30 p.m., Air Canada tweeted that the security slowdown "is now over and lines are back to normal."

Domestic passengers flying out of Terminal 1 in the early morning had been told they could wait at least an hour in the queues, CBC's Sandra Porteous reported.

"There's a lot of angry people who are getting screened," she said.

In an effort to clear the backlog and prevent further disruptions, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) said it worked with Garda, the private company contracted by the authority, to improve conditions.

74 officers face suspension

Garda Security had won an injunction on Thursday that was to prohibit workers from intentionally slowing down on the job. In a press statement Tuesday, Garda said it has placed 74 screening officers on suspension and commenced formal legal action against them for allegedly breaking the injunction order. The company said those employeees face dismissal, fines and prosecution.

"While the vast majority of our 1,600 screening officers at Pearson are performing their jobs, a small number of individuals have caused disruptions and delays and their actions will not be tolerated," said Marc-Andre Aube, COO of Security Solutions Canada. "We deeply regret the disruption and inconvenience caused by their actions.

Mathieu Larocque, who speaks for CATSA, said Tuesday that the screening delays in the morning were an "illegal work action by a limited group."

Garda and CATSA were removing disruptive screening officers and replacing them, he said, adding that managers on site were replacing some workers and that more staff were called in to help.

Scott Armstrong, manager of communications for the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), said delays were affecting Terminal 1 as well as Terminal 3, but that both lines had subsided by around 9 a.m.

Screeners deny work slowdown

Traveller Richard Gilroy, who was due to depart in the morning to Nova Scotia, was snared by the delays.

"We were travelling to Halifax and today had no idea from Air Canada or anyone this was happening," he said.

Gilroy said he was annoyed at being left to stand in line with hundreds of people waiting to get through screening.

Porteous reported that screeners said there was no slowdown Tuesday, but other staff at the airport suggested job action by security workers was happening again.

Porteous also said there was additional security on hand to help with crowds.

Late last week, similar slowdowns were blamed on labour action by screeners working for the private firm that handles security at the airport. The GTAA said Sunday that operations were back to normal.

Air travellers could face another delay later this week, as Air Canada flight attendants are poised to go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. 

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said Monday that the federal government would intervene if the flight attendants go on strike.

With files from The Canadian Press