US govt shutdown compromises Miami airport operations

The international airport in Miami has been forced to shut down one of its terminals early for three days due to a shortage of security agents sparked by the partial US government shutdown now in its 21st day.

From Saturday through Monday, Terminal G — one of six at the airport — will close at 1:00 pm (1800 GMT).

“Flights that were previously scheduled to depart from Concourse G this Saturday, Sunday and Monday will be relocated either to Concourse F or Concourse H,” airport spokesman Greg Chin told AFP.

At issue is a lack of agents from the US Transportation Security Administration, who are seen as “essential” federal workers and hence are still on the job — but without pay until the shutdown ends.

Agents are reportedly staging “sickouts” — calling in sick in a silent protest at their situation. According to The Miami Herald, absenteeism among the Miami airport agents has more than doubled since the shutdown began.

“Right now, there’s approximately some 40 employees that are calling in sick from TSA,” meaning that “this terminal doesn’t have the manpower to accommodate all the passengers,” airport spokesman Jack Varela told AFP.

“The airport, the airlines, TSA, customs we are all doing everything possible to make the passengers happy,” Varela said.

Democratic congressman Bennie Thompson, the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told the TSA chief in a letter this week that it was “only reasonable to expect officer call outs and resignations to increase the longer the shutdown lasts.”

“No employee can be expected to work indefinitely without pay,” Thompson said.

With the shutdown soon to drag into its fourth week, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the administration of US President Donald Trump, alleging that members have been “unlawfully” deprived of their wages.

There is no sign of a compromise to end the shutdown so far: Trump is insisting on funding for a wall on the border with Mexico, but opposition Democrats are not budging.

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