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American Shipper

Port worker IDs delayed, under fire

Port worker IDs delayed, under fire

   The U.S. government’s plan to improve port security by having port workers carry transportation worker identification cards (TWIC) continues to face delays and come under fire.

   “Facility and vessel owners and operators will not be required to purchase or install card readers during the first phase of the TWIC implementation,” said a letter to members of Congress from officials at the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration and Coast Guard.

   Now a prominent AFL-CIO official is saying “if TSA is not ready to proceed with TWIC as Congress mandated, then the entire program should be halted.”

   Early this week a letter was released from Craig Bone, Rear Admiral, Assistant Commandant for Prevention, U.S. Coast Guard, and Stephanie Rowe, Assistant Administrator, Transportation Security Administration, which stated: “a requirement to purchase and install card readers will not be implemented until the public is afforded further opportunity to comment on that aspect of the TWIC program.”

   The two explained that their agencies had received comments that “voiced concern regarding card and reader technology, analysis of economic impact, potential negative impacts to commerce, and uncertainty as to how TWIC requirements for facilities and vessels could be met.” The letter, published Monday in the Federal Register, was dated Aug. 16.

   Wednesday, Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO said the decision “to postpone the installation and purchase of biometric card readers while still forcing workers to undergo extensive backgrounds checks and pay for a biometric ID card is extremely troubling.”

   “It makes no sense to impose onerous requirements on workers now and force them to pay almost $150 for a glorified flash pass that may never be used as intended,” he said. “Without the ability to verify a worker’s identity through biometric data, there are limited safeguards to ensure that someone with terrorist intentions does not assume a false identity.”

   “Our government is saying that it will burden workers with extensive background checks and new fees, but it will take a pass on requiring and providing funding for installation of card readers,” he added. “Why should workers bear the brunt of our government’s transportation security programs?”

   The AFL-CIO estimates that under the TWIC program, 750,000 workers need the cards for unescorted access to secure areas of ports and vessels including longshoremen, maritime employees, rail workers and truck drivers.

   “We urge TSA to work with transportation labor to ensure that the problems and concerns of workers surrounding privacy rights, background checks and due process in appeals are addressed before this program proceeds,” Wytkind said. “And to be fair, the government — not individual workers — must absorb the costs of the program.”