Reader says hazardous working conditions exist


Sugar Land airport is a very high volume commercial public airport which services large passenger planes as well as a great volume of privately owned aircraft of varying sizes and models which include propeller, turbo and jet craft.

This city-owned airport in the past has enjoyed an excellent reputation as a well- managed, efficiently operated public facility. Many visitors have enjoyed the convenient facilities of this port as an alternative to Hobby and Bush intercontinental airports.

Naturally, this facility has vast accommodations for commercial trade such as large hangars for the protection and storage of all sizes of craft, parking accommodations for the very large number of parked planes at any given point of time and large stocks of fuel for all types of aircraft of which fuel 18,000 gallons a day are sold by this facility. There are United States customs services available for the international travelers which planes, crews and passengers are serviced by the airport line technicians.

The trafficking aircraft at this field, their passengers, crews and baggage are attended to by the airport line crew of employees of the city. Much income is produced for the city by the sales of fuel and services performed by the line technicians. A total of three line technicians are employed on each of two shifts morning and late.

The duties of the line technician are hereinafter described, and are not all- inclusive:
• Fueling aircraft (knowledge of all aircraft a sine qua non)
• Towing aircraft (knowledge of all aircraft a sine qua non)
• Moving and parking aircraft requires advanced planning expertise of two linemen, one of which should be a ‚Äúwing-walker‚Äù to insure the integrity of the aircraft.( due to the shortage of line men, the very necessary ‚Äúwing walker‚Äù is currently omitted at great risk to the procedure).
• Parking aircraft. Currently, the incoming aircraft are left on the tarmac by their pilots and crew until such time as the line technicians may attend to them and fuel them.
• Testing all fuel (tanks and trucks)
• Supervising and attending to all fuel deliveries (1-3 daily)
• Maintaining voluminous record keeping
• Lavatory service to aircraft
• Potable water service to aircraft
• Towing aircraft to remote hangars (requires a specialized lineman)
• Clearing debris, animals, birds, alligators and reptiles from runway
• Early and late unscheduled arrivals of aircraft, which mandate the attendance of line technicians
• Staging rental cars and valet vehicles on-ramp and manipulating same accordingly
• Disposing of trash of international flights
• Catering food and provisions to selected craft
• Servicing credit card purchases of fuel in conjunction with the services of office personnel
• Attending to emergencies, e.g. fuel spills, disabled aircraft, flat tires etc.
• Servicing aircraft needs, e.g. oil, restocking, tires and cleaning
• Security (admitting persons through gates,checking credentials and escorting to various aircraft.)
• Taxiing patrons and their baggage to and from aircraft
• Loading and unloading of aircraft baggage
• Providing service to numerous oil companies situated at the airport
• Servicing charter companies
• Assistance for quick turns of aircraft in all emergencies
• Arranging lodging, and ground transportation with cabs, buses, rentals etc.
• Assisting in the training of new hires
• Testing and retesting fuel prior to releasing fuel for sale
• Fuel the equipment, e.g. tugs, fuel trucks, airport vehicles, courtesy cars, etc.
• Monthly fuel inventories of jet, av gas, unleaded and diesel
• Clean and maintain all hangars
• Clean all courtesy vehicles
• Manually turn on and off all airport lights when problems arise
• Clean aircraft windshields.

The line technicians employed by the city are grossly understaffed. This fact alone is sufficient to place their lives and those of airport travelers, personnel and others in peril. Greatly contributing to the peril is a callous, contemptuous, attitude and disdainful treatment of the line technicians by the administration.

It is not difficult for one to envision from the list of duties of the line technician that a crew of three linemen is woefully inadequate to accomplish the above tasks. A minimum of five linemen is absolutely demanded for each shift. Two additional linemen should be available for emergencies, employee days off, injuries and sickness and to cover instances where the airport load becomes overwhelming due to conventions, business meetings, unscheduled and special events. This should be an absolute must in order for the city to encourage new business and to bring in income to the city and its inhabitants. Currently, the city is losing this potential income due to its extremely poor service at the airport.

One example of poor service concerns the delivery of fuel supplies to the airport. The linemen are required by law to check the quality of the fuel being delivered to the airport storage tanks. But then, after the quality is certified, due to the shortage of manpower, the linemen are instructed to leave the completion of fuel deliveries to the vendors. The failure of the linemen to oversee the complete delivery of each vendor, they believe to be a dereliction of duty leaving wide opportunities for the commission of fraud. They believe that more workers are necessary to close this window of temptation for the benefit of the city of Sugar Land.

Grievances of the line technicians
The line technicians are enthusiastic, loyal and devoted to their employer. They are all too often, however, required to perform to their full endurance and beyond. Recognizing the importance of their duties to their employer, the patrons and the general public, they respond diligently without fail to the demands of their tasks.

This wholly devoted line crew is, nevertheless, regularly castigated and verbally abused by their management. Frequent warnings to their commanders of the great danger to the public and crew by lack of sufficient line crew are summarily rejected by the directorate who counters with jeers, insults and threats of punishment, including discharge if their services do not improve or if they cannot keep pace. No line technician has ever been praised, commended or rewarded for individual services by their superiors.

Members of the line technicians believe that all airport property, public property thereon, customers, passengers, flight crews and other personnel are in constant peril due to the insufficient number of ground crew employees. It is inconceivable that a mere three ground crew linemen are on duty in any given shift to service the amount of business at this airport. For three hours during mealtime, there are only two linemen attending to airport business on any shift. Often, however, the linemen are forced by events to work through their meal break. The crew is aware of the numerous public complaints, as well as airport personnel frustrations.

Private flight crews are frequently left to service and park their own craft due to the inability of the ground crew to attend to airport business. This fact alone presents an extremely precarious situation.

Residual effect of the manpower shortage upon the line crew becomes apparent in the treatment by management of the “off” times by each member.

• No line technician is permitted a full weekend off, that is a Saturday and Sunday together.
• Each of the linemen is often required to split their two days off each week
• These men are rarely granted a prescheduled vacation date, which forces the employee to seek a vacation on short notice, subject to availability and approval by management. Even then, and often on short notice, they may be forced to cancel those vacation plans due to exigencies arising at the airport. These ‚Äúemergencies‚Äù may require them to split their vacation time.
• When a scheduled employee is absent, another lineman will be required to ‚Äúfill in‚Äù for the absent employee and give up his day off. This procedure may prove difficult for the employee who must report back to work before he is fully rested in order to replace the absentee.
• In order for an employee to seek a three-day leave of absence, he must first substitute a fellow employee to replace him.

The chaos visited upon each employee from the above described poor management policies can be easily visualized:

The above procedures employed by management may cause the employee to cancel vacation trips at great personal expense for the planned holiday, by loss of reservations, cancellations of tickets and appointments, changing well-made plans with great discomfort to all concerned, etc These management policies present, not only a great expense to the employee but great consternation to that employee and others involved. To all of the above hardships, the administration turns a blind eye and does not hear their pleas or protestations. This callous attitude is similar to that of the linemen’s frequent warnings to management of the patent dangers created by the lack of sufficient qualified personnel.

Due to his inability to book vacation plans in advance, the lineman loses all economic advantage of advanced planning and, as a consequence of cancellation of vacation plans due to exigencies of his employment, suffers further economic loss. There is no remuneration to the lineman for these losses.

In the full bloom of summer, constant exposure of the lineman to the sun without cessation creates a danger of which his controllers are obviously aware and as may be apparent in Workers Compensation claims. There are, however, no provisions for such emergencies due to heat distressed ground crew employees. In such circumstances, if immediate relief is demanded for a severely affected individual, he must use his lunch hour or portion thereof, for any relief. The plight of the ground crew has not gone unnoticed by the command.

There are large quantities of volatile fuel on the tarmac; there are many planes parked there; and there are private craft piloted by inexperienced pilots accessing a field regularly for refueling. Such activities require the constant attention, supervision and guidance of alert and attentive crew. This, however, is not possible due to the unending duties and distractions of the crew relating to their duties. Thus, the entire airport is an accident waiting to happen.

The overburdened ground crew is not praised for its heroic adherence to duty. To the contrary, the administrator can frequently be heard railing and shouting insults and abuses concerning their work efforts. None of the crew has ever received compliments or praise from this executive. (It is of interest to note that no line technician has ever received the “employee of the year” award.)

Each line technician, according to the employee’s manual, (the linemens bible) is entitled to the guidance, supervision and regulation of duties by a competent, experienced, qualified and knowledgeable direct supervisor. The manual requires that the linemen be periodically evaluated and graded. The administration has neglected this formality.

HR has had no impact upon this very important (to the employees) oversight by management. This appears to be another joint maneuver between the administration and HR designed to quell the unrest of the linemen.

Similarly treated is the elimination of the requirement by the manual that all linemen be instructed annually as to his duties and expected performances in the event of an emergency or other catastrophic event which may arise! Where, pray tell, is the administration’s overseer, HR?

But this can never be available to each lineman from management appointments who may be totally unqualified, incompetent, unfamiliar with the duties and completely lacking in experience. From such a person there can be no assistance or direction and no educational guidance to the crew. If this person has received no education or training from his superintendents, how then can such an individual train a new employee for this very vital airport service? The inadequacy of a management arises from the deliberate acts of the administration in conjunction with Human Resources in their steadfast refusal to follow the instructions in the employee’s manual as to hiring practices, including advertising, posting of job requirements and thorough and diligent investigation of each applicant’s qualifications. Linemen cannot be substituted for teachers, instructors or trainers of new unqualified hires, nor are they qualified to do so.

For years, members of the ground crew have made known their fears of the extreme danger and hazard to the public and to all personnel created by the above described inequities. It is believed that many avoidable Workers Compensation claims have resulted from the perils and hazards associated with the shortage of manpower, at great expense to the city.

The line technician is furnished with a copy of an ‚Äúemployee’s manual‚Äù when commencing employment. This very technical document is left unexplained and uninterpreted. This manual is thereafter modified frequently and has been completely revised and rewritten thereafter without informing the linemen or providing them with copies of the alterations and modifications as they occur, all as noted in a completely new modified ‚Äúemployees manual‚Äù.

The linemen do not know the full extent and purpose of Human Resources (HR) except that H R oversees the functions of the city employees as it pertains to their duties. In the manual, the role of HR is delineated. From past bitter experiences to some of the linemen, the line technicians have no credibility and place no trust in this clearly biased tool of management (as has been noted herein).HR is not considered to be the lineman’s friend. Thus, complaints as to management’s activities are fully stifled. HR avoids the clearly stated rules of hiring new employees as set forth in section 2.01 of the manual. HR has regularly concealed, contrary to the manual, the fact of job openings. The line technicians’ awareness of the villainous conduct by HR is deeply embedded in them, and the fear of retaliation restrains their attempts at remedy. New hires in the line department are a well-kept secret between management and HR, contrary to the dictates of the manual. HR is the last entity from whom the lineman would seek a remedy or direct a complaint against management. The office of HR, therefore, lacks any integrity with the line crew.

The manual requires that the line technician report all fraud or illegal conduct of which each person may have knowledge. The lineman no longer does such reporting. From past experiences of some employees, their reports have not been well received and they have reason to fear retaliation from management.

Near calamitous errors by the airport administration have concealed from authorities and from the public, in violation of the manual, many evidences of its incompetence. This evidence has been swept under the rug thus delaying interminably the absolutely necessary reforms required which would carry the airport from acceptable to great.

By this misconduct, the airport command seeks to bury forever these telltale evidences of its folly by eventually, as per its threats, discharging all present line technicians,hence their shoddy treatment. The linemen know who oversees their performances, but who oversees management?

The line crew are firmly convinced that the abuse by his administrators is a cover or a plot to avoid the requirements of the manual that the performances of the employees be reviewed periodically and graded. This then could result in promotions and wage increases as set forth in the manual.

They believe that the joint misconduct of management and HR is a mere facade to discourage the employees from seeking well-deserved increased wages for their intense sacrifice and dedication to duty.

By its insidious misconduct concerning unsubstantiated faults of employees, the administration shifts blame for its own inadequacies. By this subtlety, it destroys the basis for all well-deserved wage increases of employees. Thus, a deliberate course of conduct has been designed by these superiors to become the despair of the employee.

The employee manual may set forth rights of the line technician but it appears to be an instrument of the directorate to control the employee. The above consolidated statements clearly reveal that the line technician needs an independent voice to represent his interests in order to avoid further and continuing abuses by management. An employees union would be such a voice and should be considered, by the lineman, absent other remediation.

The refusal and disdain by governance, in coordination with HR to observe the rules of the employees manual together with the flaunting of its terms and its interpretation with its effects thereof by these powers is another major grievance of the line technicians. This however is an issue which, because of its magnitude, must be separately addressed.

The linemen herewith respectfully submit these grievances at this time in the hopes that changes will be implemented by the administration to improve conditions for their health and safety prior to any occurrences of serious injuries or calamities.

I have read the above document and endorse same.

Russell Mann

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Posted by on Nov 9 2012. Filed under Letters. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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