8 Jun 2012

Concerns over ‘cheap Olympics labour’

The company which caused a furore after its Jubilee stewards ended up sleeping under London Bridge is supplying fire safety staff to the Olympics.

Close Protection UK won a competitive pitch to provide fire stewards

Close Protection UK, based in Wigan, will supply fire marshals to the games next month after winning a competitive tendering process.

It has also been revealed over the past four years, Molly Prince, Close Protection UK’s managing director, has been a director of five other firms which filed no accounts and were dissolved.

On Sunday morning, 30 jobseekers and 50 apprentices were told to sleep under London Bridge where they had to change into their security uniform in public, before working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain at the river pageant. That night they were taken to a sodden campsite.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott said the revelations that people working for the company without pay were forced to sleep under London Bridge amounted to a “breach of the responsibility of the company under the agreements in the industry to have proper regard to their employees”.

He added: “”We’re using unpaid labour in the kinds of positions that are causing great concern and may well be establishing the practice for the coming Olympics, which this company is involved in as well. What conditions will they be paying for, how will they be sleeping? Who is responsible?
“This government that exploits cheap labour.”

However, in a letter to the Guardian, Miss Prince denied the claims made against their firm over treatment of Jubilee staff.

She said: “In fact, nobody was sent to camp under a bridge overnight. The volunteer group arrived early, at 3am, and were de-bussed by the coach company who had estimated a 5am time of arrival.

“Unfortunately my staff member did not deal with this in the way I would have hoped; but I am not in the business of scapegoating anyone, and I accept responsibility for decisions made and have expressed my sincere apologies to those concerned.”

She added that staff training and conditions will improve when the company completes its Olympics contract.

“Measures have been put in place to ensure that better planning will be in place for the Olympics and, as was always the case, only fully employed staff will be deployed for the duration of the events.”

A London 2012 spokesperson said: “Close Protection UK is providing some fire marshal services for us. All employees will be paid the London living wage. CPUK was appointed via a competitive tender process.”