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Messages mixed on screener jobs

By JEAN HELLER
Published October 11, 2003

TAMPA - The federal security director at Tampa International Airport says none of his screeners will be laid off in the latest round of nationwide cutbacks. But some screeners aren't buying it.

Dario Compain told a press conference Wednesday that the latest cutbacks, dictated by Washington budget cuts , could be done by converting some full-time jobs to part-time. No one who doesn't want to leave will be asked to.

But also on Wednesday, the airport's 690 screeners got letters from Compain explaining how their employment status would be influenced by their scores on recent tests. Some of the letters said: "As a result of your ranking, at this time you are at risk of an involuntary conversion to a part-time position or to a RIF action."

RIF stands for Reduction in Force, federal-speak for laid off or fired. About 9 percent of the screeners, or approximately 62, got the at-risk letters.

The apparent contradiction between Compain's public words and private letters created anxiety among the screeners, several of whom called the St. Petersburg Times to complain that Compain was not telling the truth. None, however, would agree to be identified publicly.

Their frustration underscores the job security worries of screeners nationwide. The current cutbacks are the third in the short life of the federal Transportation Security Administration. When completed in December, 9,000 positions will have been cut from a nationwide force of 55,600 hired only a year earlier.

Compain said Friday what the screeners received was a form letter written by TSA officials in Washington to cover all of the nation's 430 commercial airports.

"Riffing was an option for all federal security directors, but it is one that we chose not to exercise at TIA," Compain said. "Our staffing plan generated enough part-time positions that I can offer everyone who chooses to stay at least part-time work."

Those who accept part-time work will be given five dates to choose from for the changeover, ranging from Nov. 1 to Dec. 27. Compain said he is urging screeners who would like to remain full time to chose the latest date offered to increase the chances that other departures will open some full time slots.

[Last modified October 11, 2003, 02:08:56]


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