Siptu to meet Aer Lingus over use of CCTV to monitor staff behaviour

Airline says move at Dublin Airport aims to protect customer and company property

Trade union representatives will meet Aer Lingus management later this week to discuss the airline’s installation of CCTV cameras at Dublin Airport to monitor what it terms ‘unacceptable behaviour’ by some staff. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Trade union representatives will meet Aer Lingus management later this week to discuss the airline’s installation of CCTV cameras at Dublin Airport to monitor what it terms ‘unacceptable behaviour’ by some staff. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

Trade union representatives will meet Aer Lingus management later this week to discuss the airline’s installation of CCTV cameras at Dublin Airport to monitor what it terms “unacceptable behaviour” by some staff.

Aer Lingus chief operating officer Mike Rutter claimed in a memo to staff last month that a “small percentage” of staff were not performing their duties in line with the company’s values and had been involved in the theft of customer property, damage to company property and interference with colleagues’ property.

Mr Rutter wrote that the company was rolling out cameras throughout its areas in Terminal 2 from November 22nd and that security services would commence “random patrols” of arriving aircraft, break rooms and at lost property drop-off points.

“Over the last few months some more serious issues have necessitated the involvement of An Garda Síochána and local and federal law enforcement agencies in the United States,” he wrote.

Mr Rutter said the company was “determined” to take the appropriate steps to ensure the security of its customer and company property and to protect its staff working in all areas.

“We are confident that this investment will result in great protection of the property of our guests and our stock across the fleet, reducing the many millions of euros every year associated with stock losses.”

‘Excessive’

Siptu wrote to Aer Lingus last week in relation to productivity talks and raised a number of other issues, including the installation of what its members felt to be “an excessive” number of CCTV cameras in the areas they work in, as well as the decision to implement security patrols in break areas and locker rooms.

A spokesman for Siptu said the union would be meeting management later this week.

In a statement, Aer Lingus said it had taken steps in recent weeks “to bring our security in line with industry standard practices and proportionate to the purpose of securing our premises, our property and the property of our guests”.

“The necessary steps, including the compiling of a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) for our CCTV systems and appropriate signage have been taken to ensure our colleagues’ rights and personal data is protected,” it added.

It said it had a CCTV policy available to staff that described data recording, storage and retention and how images could be accessed.

Privacy

Each CCTV installation was reviewed by a cross-departmental group of staff. Notification was also provided to staff about the use of the cameras and their use was also covered by its staff privacy notice, it said.

“The Aer Lingus leadership team has engaged with staff representatives in relation to this matter over recent months and will continue to work with the representatives in line with best practice.”

“The overwhelming majority of our Aer Lingus colleagues behave in an exemplary manner, and perform their roles impeccably, and we thank our colleagues for their continued hard work and dedication.

“However, we are understandably dismayed that there are those that do not behave in an exemplary manner. The unfortunate reality is that a tiny subset of our 4,500 colleagues behave in a manner that falls below the required standard. This is wholly unacceptable for those working in the airline, for management and for our valued guests.”

As far back as 2013, the Data Protection Commissioner noted an increasing number of complaints concerning the use of CCTV to monitor employees as they go about their workplace duties.
As far back as 2013, the Data Protection Commissioner noted an increasing number of complaints concerning the use of CCTV to monitor employees as they go about their workplace duties.

ANALYSIS

As far back as 2013, the Data Protection Commissioner noted an increasing number of complaints concerning the use of CCTV in “a range of environments”.

“Many are against employers and the alleged use by them of CCTV to monitor employees as they go about their workplace duties,” it said at the time.

Employers using CCTV to monitor staff must be able to demonstrate that such a measure is proportionate and that it is not merely being used to monitor them inappropriately. The use of recording systems to obtain data such as CCTV footage without a person’s knowledge is generally unlawful.

The commissioner’s guidance says covert surveillance is normally only permitted on a case by case basis where the footage is kept for the purpose of preventing, detecting or investigating or prosecuting offences.

Such covert surveillance must be “focused” and of short duration and only “specific and relevant” individuals and locations should be recorded.

“If no evidence is obtained within a reasonable period, the surveillance should cease,” says the commissioner. “The expanded use of CCTV systems has society-wide implications. Unless such systems are used with proper care and consideration, they can give rise to concern that the individual’s ‘private space’ is being unreasonably invaded.”

The office says the use of such systems must be proportionate to the aims for which they are deployed. For example, an employer must consider what the footage will be used for and if those uses are “reasonable in the circumstances”.

Intruders

Security of premises or other property is probably the most common use of a CCTV system. Such a system will typically be intended to capture images of intruders or of individuals damaging property or removing goods without authorisation. Such uses are more likely to meet the test of proportionality, the office says. But it adds that other uses “may fail the test of proportionality”.

“For example, using a CCTV system to constantly monitor employees is highly intrusive and would need to be justified by reference to special circumstances. If the monitoring is for health and safety reasons, a data controller would need to demonstrate that the installation of CCTV was proportionate in addressing health and safety issues that had arisen prior to the installation of the system.”

It also says the location of cameras is a “key consideration”.

The commission has upheld some complaints by people who felt the processing of their personal data in CCTV used in their workplace was in breach of data protection law. It has also held in other cases that an employer had not broken the law in its use of CCTV to monitor someone in a particular context, such as where there was a suspicion of theft.

Under EU law, an employer seeking to use CCTV to monitor employees or a public area would need to conduct a data protection impact assessment, such as the one Aer Lingus has said it carried out.