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28 June 2013

A statement in connection with false allegations against Konsalnet which appeared in Wprost weekly

Responding to false allegations against Konsalnet that appeared in an article by Ms Joanna Apelska and Mr Cezary Bielakowski, ”Security at Chopin”, published in Wprost on 24 June 2013, we declare that our staff working at the Frederic Chopin Airport in Warsaw are properly qualified to provide security services at the airport.

The article is based on unverified opinions of anonymous sources. The authors level serious charges based solely on anonymous sensational stories “overheard” from unknown people.

The unreliability of the article is evident in the following:

  1. Denial of an opportunity for Konsalnet to present its arguments.  The authors did not approach the company with any enquiries; they made no attempt to clarify any doubts or to verify the ‘data’ sourced from anonymous accounts.  Even in investigative journalism, the principle of hearing both sides applies, if only to present the readers with all applicable circumstances of a given case.
  2. The alleged threat to the security of passengers, caused by the replacement of Airport Security Service guards with Konsalnet personnel, illustrated by a photograph showing a queue to the security check positions at Chopin Airport.  The photograph was taken on 27 February 2013 (the passengers wearing down jackets, hats and scarves) and was used in the media then. At that time, security controls were provided by Airport Security Service.

Therefore, in the absence of any contact with the Authors at the time of the preparation of this material, we declare as follows:

a)      Konsalnet Security Screeners providing services for Chopin Airport have undergone specialist training as required by European and Polish law and certified by the Civil Aviation Authority and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Their skills have been confirmed by state examinations. Identical training and examinations had earlier been completed by the employees of Airport Security Service (an internal organizational unit of the Polish Airports state enterprise) who performed security tasks for a year only, i.e. after these were taken over from the state administration (Border Guards and Police). It is not therefore true, that Konsalnet employees are worse trained or supervised by state authorities than the staff of the Airport Security Service that had previously performed the same tasks.

b)    Konsalnet had prepared to participate in the tender and to undertake civil aviation security controls since the amendment of relevant acts (The Aviation Law and the act on the security of people and property), i.e. since 2011. The company has invested over PLN 2m, creating from scratch a specialized unit to cater for the civil aviation market (including the provision of training and equipment for the staff, employing first-class specialists in these areas and creating an infrastructure for this kind of activity). Since Jne 2012, Konsalnet has been training its own specialists, who on completion of the course (in accordance with the program agreed with the head of the Internal Security Agency and confirmed by the President of the CAA) take the state examination for a Security Screener. In the period from July 2012 to May 2013, we trained 320 people, 214 of whom took the state exam at the CAA after successful completion of an internal exam.  By the end of May 2013, 159 of our employees had been awarded the Security Control Screener’s Certificate – the certificate that had been previously awarded to Airport Security Service employees.

 

c)      The instructors training our employees and also the managers and supervisors at Chopin Airport are top class professionals with enormous knowledge and many years of experience in the field of security of civilian aviation. They include a lecturer at the Border Guards Training Centre in Kętrzyn, employees of Chopin Airport in Warsaw and of the Civil Aviation Administration. Even the authors of the article admit that our staff includes many professionals with extensive experience in airport security tasks, acquired while working in the Polish Border Guard.

d)      All Security Screeners employed by Konsalnet hold  a current security guard licence, as required by law, in addition to the SS certificate. In order to obtain such a licence, the applicant has to complete a several-week-long course which ends with an examination before a board appointed by the Provincial Police Headquarters, according to the act on the security of people and property. All of these courses and exams are supervised by the state administration.  In light of this, the allegations made in the above-referred article, claiming that Konsalnet employees lack the knowledge and skills necessary to fulfil the role of security screeners are untrue.

Prior to receiving an SC certificate, the canditates’ abilities are verified by a number of state institutions, and in the course of their service at Chopin Airport, they are continually monitored by authorised state services, namely the Polish  Border Guard, and by the client, Polish Airports.  In addition, they and the entire security system at the airport are subject to regular audits by the Civil Aviation Authority and the European Union Transport and Energy Director General.

e)      From April 2012 to June 2013, the security checkpoints manned by Konsalnet personnel were witness to merely two breaches of the procedure: after a power failure at an aircrew entrance, while the screening staff were restoring the operational functionality of the equipment and manually checking baggage (in a full compliance with procedures, as the authors of the article noted themselves) two members of air crew passed through the gate.  The second incident involved the pilot of a small private plane at the General Aviation Terminal, who did not undergo additional checks after an alarm was sounded. Relevant disciplinary measures were taken against the involved staff and all screeners were subsequently appropriately instructed and provided additional training. The fact that these mistakes made by Konsalnet personnel were revealed demonstrates that the security system works correctly.  In both instances, Polish Airports, as provided for in the contract, imposed adequate financial penalties on the company. The authors’ claims that Konsalnet receives lenient treatment from Polish Airports and that the security system fails are, as we can see, unjustified. There were no other breaches of procedure.

f)       There has been no instance of unauthorised carriage of prohibited items through security checkpoints since Konsalnet took over the security responsibilities at Chopin Airport. Within 3 weeks following the taking over of security controls by Konsalnet our personnel revealed 2 attempts to carry weapons and replica weapons onboard of aircraft in hand luggage, and an attempt to check in luggage containing unregistered weapons for a transatlantic flight.

So many instances in such a short time demonstrate the meticulousness of security controls provided by Konsalnet.

g)      From 2 June onwards, Konsalnet has been providing independent and continuous security controls in all areas provided for in the contract:

  • Security controls in the registered baggage sorting area,
  • Security controls for the transit passenger traffic,
  • Security controls for air crews
  • Security controls for crews and passengers in the private planes terminal
  • Security controls for VIP passengers
  • Security controls for business and economy class passengers;
  • Security controls for oversize baggage;

In the central zone, where economy class and business class passengers are checked in, Konsalnet has been performing security checks according to the contract since 2 June. A congestion occurred only once – on 14 June – and lasted a few hours. It was due to a concurrence of several extraordinary factors (including the discovery of an unexploded ordnance on the premises).  On 15 June, in connection with the increasing holiday traffic and also additional traffic, connected with events that had not been foreseen at the time of preparation of the contract, we increased the number of staff in these areas. At daily peaks, on average 6 to 8 security checkpoints are opened. Only in the event of a sudden increase in the number of passengers, 1-2 additional points are temporarily activated, operated by Airport Security Service.  In this period, there have been no instances of congestion or queues, despite the increasing traffic (also caused by the transfer of flights from Modlin Airport and the renovation of one of the terminals). The claim that Konsalnet lacks sufficient numbers of employees is entirely false.

h)      Airport Security Service is, as a matter of fact,  an internal department of Polish Airports, and is subject to identical regulations as the external security providers in a majority of large airports (Chopin Airport, Katowice, Modlin). They have provided security services, according to a statement published by Polish Airports spokesperson on the Chopin Airport website, only since the spring of 2012, i.e. from the time that the Polish Border Guard decided to withdraw from performing this task.  Previously, this unit had been involved solely in the protection of the airport premises.

The claim, repeatedly brought up by the authors and their interviewees, suggesting that this is the only experienced organization capable of ensuring the security of civil aviation in Poland is untrue.  The article creates an impression that Airport Security Service is a state service, which is also false.  The ASS is a security organisation operated by Polish Airports and – according to the statement mentioned above – ASS took over security controls only a year ago, which even at the time was intended to be a provisional solution, implemented until an external contractor would be selected.

 

i)        We also wish to point out that the takeover of security services by external service providers is the consequence of amendments made to the relevant laws: the Aviation Law and the act on the security of people and property, which enabled the administrators of airports to outsource the performance of this service to external companies – Specialised Armed Security Services (SUFO – Specjalistyczne Uzbrojone Formacje Ochrone). Before that, these tasks had been performed by state services: the Polish Border Guard and the Police, and were financed from the state budget.  The amendments provided the administrators with the possibility of provision of security services using their own staff (such as ASS) or selecting an external company through a tender process.  Security control services are provided by specialist external companies at the largest airports in Europe and in the world.

Publications in other media (e.g. Gazeta Prawna of 26.06.2013), and the statement of the Polish Airports spokesperson provide the actual background of the events at Chopin Airport. The whole issue concerns the maintenance of a costly monopoly on security services at the airport by the Airport Security Services.  The airport administration intended to hold a tender and to transfer these tasks to a specialized external company from the beginning, realising that the performance of these tasks by the internal airport services would be significantly more expensive. We understand the anxiety and frustration of ASS employees; however, the media action targeting Konsalnet is inspired primarily by a narrow group of trade union activists, who are primarily interested in the maintenance of their political influence and positions within the trade union. In order to preserve theire benefits, they undermine the goodwill of a company that won the contract in a public tender in an honest way, having prepared for it for nearly 2 years.

We remind that Konsalnet has invested over 2 million Polish zlotys to prepare -as well as possible – to perform these services.  We are also a reputable employer, having been recognised by the KK NSZZ Solidarity in 2012 as one of two security companies awarded the Seal of Quality of Social Dialogue – in recognition of the principles which we apply to our employees. Therefore, anonymous and unjustified criticism published in the above-referred Wprost article is all the more damaging for us.

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