Fierce competition among security companies at Schiphol Airport has caused huge pressure on security officers. On Tuesday, hundreds of security officers joined a manifestation demanding Schiphol to take action, with hundreds more showing their support by wearing a protest badge on the job. The security contracts are up for renewal later this year and Schiphol can require security companies to provide decent labour conditions.
“We take our jobs very seriously. We make it possible for people to fly safely. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult for us to do our jobs properly. We have to work for hours on end”, Debbie Theunissen, security officer at Schiphol, said. “This affects our alertness and therefore the security of passengers. Also, we’re dealing with a lot of insecurity: when will we work, how much money will we earn each month. This has to change.”
At the protest, Schiphol cleaners and ground handlers pledged their solidarity with the security officers.
After being presented with a symbolic key to solving the situation, Schiphol spokesperson Herman Vreeburg said decent labour conditions will be regulated in the new security contracts. Security officers said they will monitor the procurement process closely to make sure this really happens.
Schiphol is prospering. Passenger and cargo records are broken year after year. However, for security officers at Schiphol, the situation isn’t as rosy. They have important but straining jobs. They are the public face of the airport. Yet they have to do their jobs under increasingly difficult circumstances.
For security officers to be able do their jobs properly, the downward spiral of employment and health and safety conditions has to end. Considering how well the airport is doing economically, there should be no problem offering them permanent, fulttime jobs. Further, Schiphol should require security companies to respect the limits set by the independent research institute TNO for how long workers should have to work at the checkpoints before they get a break. The frequent disregard of these limits poses both health and security risks. Last but not least, security officers want respect from Schiphol, from their employers and from the passengers.
Trade union FNV Beveiliging thinks jobs at Schiphol should be real jobs. Jobs that pay a living wage, don’t damage your health and allow you to have a private life. Security officers should be able to do their jobs properly, so the airport will be safe and passengers can pass the security checks quickly and without hassle. In order to achieve this, Schiphol must take responsibility for the labour conditions of the thousands of security officers working at the airport.
Currently, security services at Schiphol Airport are provided by G4S, Securitas, Trigion (Facilicom) and I-Sec (ICTS). In an effort to control costs, the number of security officers at the airport has been reduced from 4,850 to 4,400, and Schiphol plans to cut another 20%, notwithstanding substantial passenger growth.