EE.UU. abre la puerta a los guardias privados en registro de equipajes

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government announced Tuesday that it will make it easier for airports to replace federal baggage and passenger screeners with privately employed workers.
A three-week period for airports to apply to make the switch, scheduled to begin Thursday, will be extended indefinitely, the Transportation Security Administration has decided.
«We’re ready to work with any airport that prefers to have contractor screeners,» TSA chief David Stone said in a statement.
Airports given permission to hire private contractors are expected to begin the transition in May, the agency said.
Under the direction of the TSA, airports switched from privately employed screeners to an all-government work force after the September 11, 2001, attacks. Though many airport directors say they’re happy with the change, others think private contractors can do a better job.
They say the federal bureaucracy allows too little flexibility to reassign workers to handle surges in air travel, sometimes resulting in long waits at security checkpoints.
Steve van Beek, executive vice president of the Airports Council International, which represents airport officials, said he knew of about 20 airports interested in returning to private screeners.
Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation aviation subcommittee, said private screeners would be paid the same and have the same qualifications as federal screeners.
«This does not mean a return to having the airlines conduct screening without federal supervision,» said Mica, a Florida Republican.
Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, said private companies won’t solve airport screening problems.
«It isn’t going to save the taxpayers money, and it isn’t going to improve screening,» DeFazio said. One of the screeners’ biggest problems is outdated technology that makes it hard to find dangerous items, he said.
«There’s not much to recommend it, except someone somewhere will make a profit on security screening,» DeFazio said.
Five airports — in San Francisco, California; Tupelo, Mississippi; Rochester, New York; Kansas City, Missouri; and Jackson Hole, Wyoming — already use private screeners under a pilot program. All five plan to continue with private screeners.
Van Beek said the companies that employ the screeners have found innovative ways to use workers efficiently.
At San Francisco International Airport video cameras are trained on all the checkpoints so workers can be moved quickly to those where backups are developing.
Hiring private screeners might be especially attractive to small airports because they’ll be able to hire the screeners themselves without going through a private company, van Beek said. Jackson Hole Airport, one of the five in the pilot program, now is the only airport in the country that hires its own screeners.
Airports that switch to private screeners will be able to switch back to government workers if they choose.

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