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Miami International Airport (MIA) said it would close one of its terminals for half of the day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday due to a shortage of Transport Security Administration officers during the partial shutdown of the US government.
The airport’s Terminal G security checkpoints will be closed after 1pm during the three-day window, Gregg Chin, a spokesperson for MIA, told The Miami Herald. MIA has a total of six terminals. Chin said the “precautionary step” means 12 flights would be relocated to the airport’s adjoining concourses in the afternoons, and noted that the terminal’s closure was in light of “an increased number of TSA screeners not reporting to work.”
Because they aren’t receiving a paycheck during the government shutdown but still have to show up to work as “essential” federal employees, TSA officers have reportedly been calling in sick in droves. According to Chin, security screeners at Miami’s airport are calling in sick at twice the normal rate. With fewer screeners, airport officials feared they wouldn’t have enough staff to cover MIA’s 11 security checkpoints.
“They are not coming to work because they don’t have the money to get to work,” Hydrick Thomas, president of the TSA union under the American Federation of Government Employees, told The Washington Post. “They’re not just taking off. They’re not saying, ‘We’re going to shut things down.’ They are the lowest-paid employees in the federal government, and they don’t have the money to get to work.”
At other airports, TSA officers are reporting that they have been told not to call in sick, or they will face disciplinary action.
“We cannot voluntarily furlough…We cannot call out sick…There is no sick leave, we were told if you call out sick, you’d be AWOL (absent without official leave). Disciplinary action,” Ron Gerber, a TSA officer at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), told NBC San Diego.
TSA spokesperson Michael Bilello told CNN that “callouts began over the holiday period and have increased,” and that the agency was “closely monitoring the situation.”
Friday marked the first official payday missed by 800,000 federal employees. About 51,000 TSA officers are working without pay during the shutdown.
Featured image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
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