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JFK workers call off holiday strike

Security contractors at John F. Kennedy International Airport and their supporters protest before authorizing a strike. Photo by Rich Bockmann
TimesLedger Newspapers

Security workers at John F. Kennedy International Airport Tuesday evening called off plans for a strike that threatened to see 300 security officers walk off the job at the height of the holiday travel season.

Employees at Air Serv and Global Elite, companies that contract with airlines at JFK, have been feuding with management for months over wages, benefits and what they claim to be a lack of training and support that jeopardizes passenger safety.

“Air Serv has put our backs against the wall by not addressing our concerns for the public safety by not providing us with enough training or enough proper equipment to do our jobs,” Air Serv employee Prince Jackson said at a rally last week when the workers voted to authorize the strike. “So we have no other choice than to take drastic action and, unfortunately, we will have to if our demands and if our concerns are not met. We will have to strike next week.”

Air Serv employees, who direct traffic outside airport terminals, sent a letter to the Transportation Safety Administration last month saying that despite repeated complaints to management, their workers continue to be on the job with non-functioning radios.

Global Elite employees are responsible for performing security checks on planes after they have been combed through by cleaning crews, but claim management exerts pressure to get what should be a 30-minute job done in just under five.

Workers said they were planning on striking Dec. 20 if their employers refused to sit down at the negotiating table, but on Tuesday night Jackson said the workers called off the strike.

“Earlier today, the Port Authority asked us to call off our strike and, more importantly, asked the contractors to meet with us,” he said in a statement. “Both Air Serv and Global Elite have agreed to meet so tonight we are calling off the strike for now and look forward to discussing our concerns with the contractors.”

None of the workers are represented by a union, but they have been attempting to organize with SEIU/32BJ and added to their list of grievances complaints the companies have illegally thwarted those efforts.

When the strike was called off, Air Serv released a statement pledging to work out a solution with its employees.

“To reiterate our prior statement, we value employees’ input on matters of concern and will be speaking with them in the days and weeks to come,” the company said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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