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Swissport workers at Newark Airport take unsafe working condition complaints to OSHA


The workers say they live with vermin in breakrooms, drive unsafe vehicles, and are exposed to chemicals

Workers at Newark Airport are taking their case against cargo handler Swissport, which serves United Airlines, to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

They charge unsafe working conditions ranging from driving vehicles with faulty brakes to chemical exposures.

Kim Ikner is a cargo agent. She said there’s more.

“The microwave and the oven toasters also displays bugs upon us putting our food into the mechanism, mice are scurrying, birds flying over, and as they’re flying they’re releasing their defecate, that’s what’s occurring in the break rooms,” she said.

Swissport has been cited by OSHA before, but nothing changed.

Peter Dooley is an expert on workplace safety programs. He said OSHA fines aren’t big enough to really hurt companies.

“Companies have basically lobbied and spent enough money to make OSHA having less impact than it needs to,” he said.

The workers are also discussing unionization, which experts say could solve these problems, but have not held a vote yet. Charlene Obernauer is head of the nonprofit New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

“Some employers, when employees express the intent to unionize and express issues around why they’re unionizing, obviously health and safety is a big reason for their unionization, so I would argue that if the company does become unionized then the union will address it,” she said.

Janice Kirkel is a lifelong award-winning journalist who has done everything from network newscasts to national and local sports reports to business newscasts to specialized reporting and editing in technical areas of business and finance such as bankruptcy, capital structure changes and reporting on the business of the investment business.