Newark airport supervisors form nation's first management group to lobby for changes at TSA
By Steve Strunsky,The Star-Ledger
NEWARK — Supervisors at Newark Liberty International Airport have formed the nation’s first management group to lobby for reforms at the embattled Transportation Security Administration.
Founders of the Transportation Security Management Association say their goal is to ensure that workplace policies allow TSA supervisors and managers to do their jobs as well as possible and, ultimately, improve security.
"They go hand-in-hand," said Philip Tsambazis, a baggage screening supervisor who is president of the new group. "We want to work with (upper) management in order to create a better working environment for everyone."
The group is a chapter of the Federal Managers Association, which lobbies for reform on behalf of 200,000 managers and supervisors who work for the federal government. The FMA granted the group’s charter in January.
Creation of the local association coincides with the replacement earlier this month of Barbara Bonn Powell as Newark Liberty’s federal security director, amid criticism of local security operations following a string of embarrassing security lapses.
Tsambazis said his group is eager to work with Powell’s replacement, Donald Drummer, who is conducting a top-to-bottom assessment of procedures at the airport.
"We just want to make sure there is a smooth transition to the new (federal security director) and we want to make sure he is given all the tools that are available to him," Tsambazis said. "Basically, anything he needs, we are there to assist him."
The new supervisors group also comes as TSA screeners have voted to form a nationwide collective bargaining unit to negotiate non-pay work rules.
A runoff election starting May 23 will decide which of two unions will represent the nation’s 44,100 airport screeners. Like the supervisors, screeners say giving workers a say in workplace rules will lead to improved job performance and better security.
Tsambazis was careful to distance his group from rank-and-file screeners.
"We have nothing to do with any type of union or collective bargaining," he said.
Tsambazis said it was supervisors’ exclusion from the screeners’ bargaining unit that prompted him to reach out to the FMA in November.
So far, he said, his group has signed up about three dozen supervisors and managers at Newark Liberty from among 115 supervisors and about two dozen terminal managers. There are also plans to recruit members from other airports, including Philadelphia International Airport, he said.
Talks are under way to form a separate chapter at LaGuardia Airport in New York, which could eventually include managers at John F. Kennedy International Airport.
In a statement, TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis said "TSA encourages its employees to take an active role in the agency’s continued evolution towards an agile, high performance organization." But, the statement added, "(TSA) Administrator (John) Pistole has the sole authority to set security policy at TSA."
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