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Security workers postpone JFK strike

Security employee Prince Jackson tells the protesting group

Security employee Prince Jackson tells the protesting group in front of Terminal 3 at JFK that a strike was narrowly avoided. (Dec. 18, 2012) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Security workers at Kennedy Airport have put off a strike planned for Thursday that Port Authority officials feared would have jeopardized safety at the facility during the hectic holiday travel season.

"I have good news," security worker Prince Jackson told a small group of employees and supporters gathered for a rally Tuesday night to discuss details for the strike. "Port Authority has asked us to call off the strike and we have agreed."

Workers and two private firms that employ them, Global Elite and Air Serv of Atlanta, were urged by the authority's executive director, Patrick Foye, to hammer out an agreement so that travel business wasn't lost.

"As the operator of JFK Airport, the Port Authority strongly encourages all stakeholders in the ongoing labor dispute to work together to resolve their differences in time to ensure a smooth holiday travel season." Foye said. "The employees at Air Serv and Global Elite provide a valuable service at our airports and to the traveling public. A strike at this time would be disruptive to millions of travelers and exact a toll on our economy."

Workers for the companies had voted last week to authorize a strike, five days before Christmas, over issues including training and equipment.

The workers are not unionized but are being supported in their efforts by 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union.

Jackson said the workers decided Tuesday night to hold off pending the outcome of meetings.

SEIU spokesman Michael Allen said the meetings were expected to take place in the coming weeks.

Global Elite workers secure aircraft after they land, and inspect planes and anyone who goes aboard, including maintenance workers and catering employees. Air Serv employees direct traffic outside terminals, guard some doors inside the terminal and perform some passenger screening for overseas flights.

Air Serv issued a statement Tuesday that said the company values its employees' "input on matters of concern and will be speaking with them in the days and weeks to come."

Global Elite said it had "a fully developed contingency plan" to handle any disruptions.

The firms hold contracts with the airlines to provide security. The Transportation Security Administration regulates airport security. The TSA last week reviewed the workers' complaints but said it found no regulatory issues.

With Igor Kossov and AP

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