KALISPELL - The Glacier Park International Airport Authority Board, sticking by its decision to privatize its airport security force, met with local federal security workers who are worried about job security.
About a dozen of Glacier Park International's 33 federal TSA workers attended the meeting Tuesday, wondering if they'll have to accept entry-level wages if they go to work for a private contractor.
The board decided more than a year ago to apply to the Transportation Security Administration Screening Partnership Program to use a private contractor for security screening of air passengers and baggage. The application still is being processed.
The workers also argue that contractors are not more efficient, that they create another layer of management, and that they don't save money in the long run.
"Are they going to respect people they see as a rent-a-cop?" said Chris Inabnit, a screener at the airport. "Is the squeeze worth the juice? Is the gain worth the loss? (A private security force) is a profit-motivated industry. They are not motivated by providing security to the American populace."
Cindi Martin, the airport director, said the board began looking into privatization in fall 2007 when the airport was having staffing issues and customer service problems, particularly during the busy summer tourism season. They decided a contractor could offer more staffing flexibility.
The workers were told that the contractors are required to pay wages comparable to that of federal workers.
Ron Myers, a Columbia Falls training consultant who is a frequent flyer, said he's concerned about the level of security at the airport.
"I want to make sure this is being done for the right reasons," Myers said.
Only 15 of the nation's 450 airports use private contractors for security workers.
"At the time the decision was made there were concerns about customer service," said airport board chairman Jim Trout. "We're sticking by our decision."