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Logan contractor denies union claims of low pay, poor conditions

Posted by Jeremy C. Fox  December 1, 2011 02:06 PM

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2011-11-23 15.15.00.jpg
(Courtesy SEIU Local 615)
This turkey leafleted Logan Airport.

A Logan Airport contractor is firing back against accusations of “continued ill-treatment of employees and disregard for working conditions” leveled last week by a local labor union.

SEIU Local 615 used Thanksgiving as an opportunity to call out Flight Services & Systems — a contractor for AirTran, JetBlue, US Airways, and other airlines — for alleged mistreatment of employees, announcing it as the winner of the annual Turkey of the Year Award.

“FSS pays poverty-level wages to many of its employees who work hard every day as wheelchair assistants, baggage handlers, and aircraft cleaners at Logan Airport,” the union said in a statement emailed to media outlets.

Union members and employees of the contractor gathered the day before the holiday at Terminal B of the airport to protest the alleged impropriety, complete with a person in a turkey suit.

The union alleged that a 2008 investigation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration had uncovered six violations: exposed extension cord wires, improper preparation of cleaning chemicals and a lack of data sheets on them, inadequate ventilation in areas where chemicals were used, the absence of a hazard communication program, and a lift truck that had no guard rail and whose brakes, outriggers, and elevating platform were deficient.

But Flight Services & Systems aggressively denied the union’s claims, calling them “false allegations” in a letter addressed to its employees and supplied to a reporter by Lisa A. Varotsis, director of airport operations for the northeast region for the contractor.

The letter said the company had “a stellar workplace safety record” and “does everything possible to ensure a safe and healthy work place,” though it conceded that accidents can occur there, as in any workplace. It also said employees were given proper safety training and encouraged to identify safety concerns and correct safety issues.

It also stated that all FSS employees were paid at least minimum wage, and most paid more, and that the wages were “the same or similar to those paid by the airlines for individuals employed in the same or a similar position.” It said workers had opportunities to rise within the company, including leadership development programs, and that many current managers worked their way up.

The letter denied a claim by the union that executives were making millions in salaries and bonuses, saying that no one in the company, not even the chief executive officer, was paid millions. “No one at FSS has ever received a million dollar salary or bonus,” it said in bold type.

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