Security firm issues ‘sincere apologies’ for treatment of stewards but insists it did not exploit workers
The former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott has written to the home secretary to complain about a security firm that used unpaid jobseekers to steward the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations in London.
He said he was “deeply concerned” by the revelations, published in the Guardian on Tuesday, that up to 30 unpaid jobseekers on the government’s work programme were asked to sleep under London Bridge before the river pageant on Sunday.
He is calling for Theresa May to investigate whether the company has broken the security industry’s own employment standards and is urging the government to review the company’s contract for the Olympics.
The firm, Close Protection UK (CPUK), has issued “sincere apologies” for what it called the “London Bridge incident”, but insisted that it had not been exploiting individuals but providing work experience.
Up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages were taken to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth on Saturday before the pageant on Sunday as part of the government’s work programme.
Two jobseekers, who did not want to be identified in case they lost their benefits, later told the Guardian that they had to camp under London Bridge overnight, to change into security gear in public, had no access to toilets for 24 hours, and were taken to a swampy campsite outside London after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames on Sunday.
In the letter, Prescott said the situation raised “very serious questions” about the “suitability of using private security contractors to do frontline policing instead of trained police officers” and that the company had shown a “blatant disregard for the care of its workers”.
He wrote: “It is totally unacceptable that young unemployed people were bussed in to London from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth and forced to sleep out in the cold overnight before stewarding a major event with no payment.
"I am deeply concerned that a private security firm is not only providing policing on the cheap but failing to show a duty of care to its staff and threatening to withdraw an opportunity to work at the Olympics as a means to coerce them to work unpaid." …