More security hires are needed at MSP as air travel recovers from the pandemic | Tech US News

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The head of Minnesota’s Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday that while his workers are ready for the Thanksgiving rush, it has been a challenge to hire more employees as air travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.

“It seems to be busier all the time,” Marty Robinson, the TSA’s director of federal security for Minnesota, said at a news conference in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “We’re getting back to normal.”

But TSA staff are struggling to keep up. the federal agency employs more than 600 at MSP. But when asked how many he would like to see work, Robinson demurred and said, “More.”

“We’re in better shape this Thanksgiving than last year in terms of hiring, but we’re still not where I want to be,” he told the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) on Monday.

The TSA expects Wednesday and Sunday to be the busiest travel days at MSP this Thanksgiving, especially from 4 to 6 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. the holidays, along with three additional canine teams to detect possible explosives.

Two new lanes were added at Terminal 1’s south checkpoint, and Delta Air Lines brought control equipment there to help move employees and others through the lines faster.

Robinson said it is especially difficult to hire workers in Minnesota, which has a historically low unemployment rate. He said it usually takes six months to a year to fully train security officers.

It’s also unclear whether Congress will pass a budget that would match the agency’s pay with those who work for other federal agencies. According to the TSA, security screeners would see an average 30% increase in base pay as a result.

“The general feeling is that if this doesn’t happen, it will be difficult to recruit new employees and retain current ones,” Robinson said.

Neal Gosman, secretary/treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 899, which represents TSA employees at MSP, agrees.

The lack of pay equity “is a moral issue,” Gosman said. “We’re doing the best we can, but overall examiners feel overworked.”

Robinson said he’s also concerned about the impact a wave of COVID-19, the flu and the respiratory virus RSV could have on the local TSA workforce this holiday season. “This is something that will really affect the staff if it happens,” he said.

Recent news that Sun Country Airlines will add more than a dozen new routes next year will present TSA with more staffing challenges at Terminal 2, Robinson said. Only one of the two checkpoints in Terminal 2 is now open.

Robinson told MAC officials that passengers trying to clear security with guns is a growing problem in the United States. So far this year, more than 6,000 guns – 87% of them loaded – have been detected in carry-on bags by TSA screeners across the country.

“It’s very concerning, although not so much here in Minnesota,” he said.

Meanwhile, Robinson assured travelers that they can bring food in their carry-on bags, including a fully cooked turkey. However, he added: “If you can pour it, spread it or pump it, it needs to be in your checked bags.”

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