The depth of the crisis over G4S’s Olympic security preparations became increasingly clear on Thursday as recruits revealed details of a “totally chaotic” selection process and police joined the military in bracing themselves to fill the void left by the private security contractor.
Guards told how, with 14 days to go until the Olympics opening ceremony, they had received no schedules, uniforms or training on x-ray machines. Others said they had been allocated to venues hundreds of miles from where they lived, been sent rotas intended for other employees, and offered shifts after they had failed G4S’s own vetting.
The West Midlands Police Federation reported that its officers were being prepared to guard the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, which will host the football tournament, amid concerns G4S would not be able to cover the security requirements.
“We have to find officers until the army arrives and we don’t know where we are going to find them from,” said Chris Jones, secretary of the federation.
G4S has got a £284m contract to provide 13,700 guards, but only has 4,000 in place. It says a further 9,000 are in the pipeline.
G4S sent an urgent request on Thursday to retired police asking them to help. A memo to the National Association of Retired Police Officers said: “G4S Policing Solutions are currently and urgently recruiting for extra support for the Olympics. These are immediate starts with this Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday available. We require ex-police officers ideally with some level of security clearance and with a Security Industry Association [accreditation], however neither is compulsory.”
Robert Brown, a former police sergeant, told the Guardian that he pulled out of the recruitment process for the Games after seeing it close at hand.
He said: “They were trying to process hundreds of people and we had to fill out endless forms. It was totally chaotic and it was obvious to me that this was being done too quickly and too late.”
Another G4S trainee, an ex-policeman, described the process as “an utter farce”.
He added: “There were people who couldn’t spell their own name. The staff were having to help them. Most people hadn’t filled in their application forms correctly. Some didn’t know what references were and others said they didn’t have anyone who could act as a referee. The G4S people were having to prompt them, saying things like “what about your uncle?”
Tim Steward, a former prison officer, said he was recruited by G4S in March as a team leader but said he would not be working at the Games because of a series of blunders.
Steward said he provided documentation for vetting but G4S had said it did not have the information on record and so closed his file. The security firm then offered him a training session at short notice, which he could not attend, but it did not offer an alternative.
A recruit who was interviewed in March and completed training last month, said: “There are people like me that are vetted and trained in security and would be happy to work, but can’t. Some of the classes were of around 200 in size with only two trainers accommodating the training for a class of this size.
“I am yet to hear from G4S regarding my screening, accreditation, uniform or even a rough start date. I know many people also who will be commencing work on 27 July who have had absolutely no scheduled on-site training. They are simply being chucked into their role on x-ray machines, public screening areas and even athlete screening areas.”
Another guard who has been trained as an x-ray operator, complained that he was unable to get through to G4S to find out when and where he was meant to be working, and was once left on hold on the phone for 38 minutes.
One student applicant said he had already spent £650 on travel and hotel bills to attend training and was now worried that, because he had not received any accreditation or rota from G4S, he might not be given the shifts that would enable him to cover those costs. He said he had expected to earn about £2,000 over the period of the Games.
G4S’s own Facebook page for new recruits is littered with similar complaints.
“They’ve placed me in Manchester and I want to work in London,” wrote Glenn Roseman. “Some idiot has changed my location, I’m never going to get any work now.”
Christian Smith complained: “I did the training course, passed, and got my own security industry association licence, only to fail G4S vetting. Two days after I got their letter, they rang me, and asked me what days I could work.”
Recruits tell of chaos over schedules, uniforms and training while ex-police officers asked to help out
Robert Booth and Nick Hopkins
The Guardian, Friday 13 July 2012
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