Federal custody officers at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Guaynabo and security officers at the Luis Muñoz Marín international airport have not reported to work due to the problems caused by the partial federal shutdown, according to what union leaders of the American Federation of Government Employees –representing officer at the Guaynabo prison- and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told El Nuevo Día yesterday.
"They have already started calling. Yesterday, some people could not go to work simply because they don´t have enough money for gasoline,” said Javier Centeno, president of TSA's 557 local union office. "Now the tip of the iceberg is breaking apart.," he added.
"Many of us live paycheck to paycheck, and you have to choose between buying food for your family or using the money to go to work,” Centeno noted.
He explained that they already had a meeting with their supervisors and, if absences rise, they have considered the possibility of closing -for certain hours - one of the two security checkpoints of the terminals of the airport.
"They (TSA) can change the rules and, instead of having people take everything out of their suitcases, they can tell them to go through the X-ray machine. That could bring a security problem that has already been raised by unions of pilots and air traffic controllers," he added. "So far, here it has helped with lines during peak holiday season."
TSA officials are just an example of many federal employees who have been going to work without their paycheck due to the partial shutdown as a result of the dispute between President Donald Trump and Congress over the President´s demand for funds to build the Mexico-U.S. border wall.
In the case of custody officers at Guaynabo federal prison, last weekend absences jumped "above average," according to Jorge Fermín, president of Local 4052 of the American Federation of Government Employees.
"Absences started after they did not receive their paycheck last weekend,” Fermín said. "They don´t seem to get the situation resolved in Congress, people are becoming careful with their money."
"Then, this weekend they started calling and saying they could not come to work ... It was remarkable," he said without specifying the number of absences.
He noted that, currently, the federal prison has more than 320 employees, with over 210 who are unionized.
"I talk to them (officers) every day, and, so far, most of them are calm. There is no sense of panic because many are also military officers, but there are some who ask me what is being done," he said.
"We are talking to the agency here ... We must have contingency plans," added Fermín. "You cannot wait until you have 40 or 50 officers absent. Here, we have real violent criminals here. You cannot put security at risk."