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"Unscheduled absences" during shutdown for airport screeners hit 10 percent

Published: Monday, January 21, 2019 @ 12:03 PM

With no end in sight to the partial government shutdown, and the possibility that 800,000 federal workers will miss another paycheck at the end of this week, the Trump Administration reported Monday that 'unscheduled absences' by TSA airport screeners hit 10 percent on Sunday, with that number jumping over the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, as security screeners continue to work without pay because of a battle between the President and Democrats in Congress over funding for a border wall.

"TSA experienced a national rate of 10 percent of unscheduled absences compared to a 3.1 percent rate one year ago on the same weekday," the Transportation Security Administration reported, again using the same language in a daily news release that "many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations."

The number of absent screeners had held around 6 percent much of last week, but the TSA reported the number of screeners not showing up for work as planned hit 7 percent on Friday, 8 percent on Saturday, and then 10 percent on Sunday.

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The TSA said in a news release that '99.9 percent of passengers waited less than 30 minutes' to go through airport screening on Sunday.

But on Saturday, excessive sick calls by TSA airport screeners forced officials at Baltimore-Washington International Airport to use emergency plans to deal with the lack of airport screeners, closing a major security checkpoint early at the airport.

That major checkpoint for Southwest Airlines flights wasn't closed for just a few hours - but remained shut down on Sunday and Monday as well, because of a lack of security screeners.

"It is important to clarify that it is not unusual for TSA and BWI Marshall to open or close one of our security checkpoints," the airport said in a written statement.

"This will have minimal, if any, impact on passengers and no impact on airport operations," the BWI statement read.

Earlier this month, press reports of airport screeners calling in sick because of the government shutdown - and the lack of pay for screeners - was denounced as 'fake news' by a top Department of Homeland Security spokesman, as well as the White House.

Like other federal workers, TSA screeners have been coming to work since the partial government shutdown started on December 22; they were paid as scheduled on December 29, but missed a check on January 11, and a second check may not be paid on January 25.

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