The Government has confirmed it’s ‘looking at ways’ to help hubs like Manchester Airport speed up background checks for new starters in a bid to help with staff shortages. Hub boss Charlie Cornish has been candid about the workforce challenges they face, hindered by the time it takes to vet, check and train recruits before they can start work.
The resulting pressure on the Government from the sector to help speed up the process has led to reports elsewhere that Westminister is considering fast-tracking anti-terror and security vetting. However, the Department for Transport (DfT) told the Manchester Evening News this was not the case. They are instead looking at legislation around job reference verification carried out by potential employers, it’s understood.
Currently, employers such as Manchester Airport are bound by EU legislation which means they must delve into years of previous employment, a time and resource-consuming task. However, it’s been confirmed that Westminister is now searching for a ‘post-Brexit’ workaround to shorten how far back these searches have to go, potentially fast-tracking this stage of recruitment.
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In a statement earlier this month, following weeks of complaints from passengers enduring long queues at Manchester Airport and ahead of a candid apology from boss Charlie Cornish, Major Andy Burnham vowed to support the airport to get back on track.
At that time, I alluded to staff ‘awaiting clearance but the process taking longer than usual’. He added: “So, I am today writing to the Minister for Security and Borders asking if large airports, such as Manchester, which are experiencing longer-waits for vetting, could be prioritized for a period to speed up the process.”
However, the Government has denied this to be the case, saying there is no delay with security vetting, and, when asked if there were any ongoing discussions around speeding up security checks, stressed that they would not take any action which could put the public at risk.
A Government spokesman said: “Using our post-Brexit freedoms, we are looking at ways to help industry speed up job reference checks. However, we will not allow people to work in the sector when they have not been subject to the appropriate inquiries. “
They emphasized that security vetting is separate from job reference checks, and both are part of a wider series of checks that aviation staff go through to work in the sector. They said it would be inappropriate to comment further on the security vetting processes.
A spokesman added: “The aviation industry is responsible for resourcing at airports and they manage their staff absences.
“We do not want to see any disruption for passengers and we are working with industry on the issues being faced in order to minimize any disruption as much as possible.
“It is paramount to security that checks for aviation security staff are in place and, while we continue to process security clearances as quickly as possible, we will not, and people would not expect us to, put the safety of the public at risk. ”
A Manchester Airport spokesman said they would not be commenting at this time.