In a message this week to TSA employees, Kip Hawley, the agency head, said the Performance and Accountability Standards System, called PASS, "has become far too complicated."
The system, he added, "has distracted the workforce from its primary mission as they continually struggle with its burdensome administrative and testing requirements."
Effective Tuesday, screeners will no longer sign a "fitness for duty" pledge when they come to work, job ratings will be simplified and paperwork to administer the system will be sharply reduced, Hawley wrote.
Gale Rossides, deputy administrator at the TSA, said yesterday that reducing paperwork chores will permit supervisors to spend more time as mentors and coaches to front-line employees at airport checkpoints. The TSA is conducting an analysis to determine how many hours spent on paperwork will be saved, she said.
Federal unions have criticized the TSA's workplace practices and pay system since it was created after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The unions do not have collective-bargaining rights at the TSA and have lobbied Congress for approval to represent airport screeners and negotiate on their behalf.
Mark Roth, general counsel at the American Federation of Government Employees, said the TSA modifications "confirm AFGE's unease with PASS as an inherently flawed and subjective system that lacks fairness and credibility."
Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said that "the small changes TSA is making will provide partial relief to employees caught in a byzantine system" but that they fall short of treating screeners fairly.
Rossides said front-line employees and supervisors suggested the changes in focus groups and advisory meetings that began last year. The unions "had nothing to do with the inputs we received," she said, adding that "we felt no pressure from any of the unions to do this."