Tuesday, April 28, 2015

OSHA launches inspection of PHL work conditions

A series of complaints filed last week set off an OSHA investigation.

OSHA launches inspection of PHL work conditions

The city and airlines that fly out of Philadelphia International Airport have come to terms on a two-year extension of airlines´ leases at the airport, and projects that will be taken in the next couple years, which does not include a new runway.
The city and airlines that fly out of Philadelphia International Airport have come to terms on a two-year extension of airlines' leases at the airport, and projects that will be taken in the next couple years, which does not include a new runway.

UPDATED with response from PrimeFlight

The federal Occupational Health & Safety Administration has launched an inspection into working conditions at Philadelphia International Airport in response to a series of complaints filed last week on behalf of subcontracted baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants.

The inspection, which can take up to six months, is a standard response to work-condition complaints, OSHA spokeswoman Leni Fortson said.

The complaints allege that some PHL workers employed by the subcontractor PrimeFlight Aviation Services, which does business in Philly with U.S. Airways, United and Southwest, do not receive training on how to help handicapped passengers, are exposed to blood and other bodily fluids and are forced to use faulty equipment.

Airport workers and labor activists took their case to City Hall on Monday.

“I want proper training, proper equipment and I want to be treated like a professional,” Nikisha Watson, a PrimeFlight wheelchair attendant and one of nine complainants, said at a press conference in a City Council room.

SEIU is representing the PrimeFlight employers in the complaint, although they are not part of Local 32BJ's collective-bargaining agreement at the airport.

The complaint is part of a larger effort to change work rules for the airport’s nonunion workers. They’ve been asking the city to mandate that subcontractors pay them a living wage, $10.88 per hour plus benefits, as it does for those employed by companies that contract with the city directly.

Some workers, because they are expected to receive tips for handling baggage or assisting handicapped passengers, make less than the federal minimum wage. They say travelers don’t tip like they used to and that they’re barely getting by on wages alone.

“I make $5.25 an hour plus tips. There are days I don’t make any tips at all,” said Izzy Fernandez, another wheelchair attendant and complainant.

The airport did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

PrimeFlight sent this statement:

"We reject the comments that have been made about PrimeFlight Aviation Services during this apparent union organizing effort. PrimeFlight serves customers in over 40 cities in the US. It has a long and outstanding performance and safety record and meets all government and airline legal requirements. Our employees receive training according to those specifications and have been recognized by airlines and passengers for service excellence. We will work with the appropriate agencies to demonstrate our full, ongoing compliance with those regulations."

About this blog
William Bender, a Drexel graduate who landed at the Daily News in 2007, has covered everything from South Philly mobsters to doomsday hucksters. He occasionally writes about local food trucks and always eats everything on his plate, whether it be a bloody rib eye or a corrupt politician. E-mail tips to benderw@phillynews.com
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David Gambacorta, has been a reporter with the Daily News since 2005, covering crime, police corruption and all of the other bizarre things that happen in Philadelphia. Now he’s covering the 2015 mayor’s race, because he enjoys a good circus just as much as the next guy. He’s always looking to get a cup of coffee. Send news tips and other musings on life to gambacd@phillynews.com
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