Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Short of staff

The total chaos over providing security staff for the Olympics shows once again that the private sector is not necessarily better at running services than the public sector. It also shows what happens when workers are treated like shit - they simply don't turn up to do the job.

Thousands of workers taken on by the bloated multinational security firm G4S haven't shown up at their allotted workplaces and thousands of troops and police officers have had to fill the gaps.

This epidemic of refuseniks is hardly surprising when you see how the wretched hirelings are being treated. Many have been employed on a daily basis only, so on any given day they may be told they're not wanted. So much for security of employment.

Their pay rate hasn't been revealed, but you can be sure it's the absolute minimum the firm can get away with. There are even reports that some workers are having to pay for their own training.

Those coming from a distance are having trouble finding affordable accommodation, which presumably the firm isn't helping out with. They may also have heavy travel costs to and from the venue.

If the workers calculate that they'll be making a pittance after their costs are allowed for, or they've found a better-paid job elsewhere, then of course they're likely to not turn up at all.

This massive absenteeism could surely have been predicted by G4S on the basis of past experience, yet they claim to have had no inkling of the problem until a few weeks before the start of the Olympics.

They also claim to have been taken unawares by the administrative demands of recruiting thousands of staff, training them, vetting them and allocating them to the various Olympic sites. The complex process was way behind schedule and many workers ringing helplines either couldn't reach anyone or nobody could answer their queries.

Even the Chief Executive of G4S, Nick Buckles, has admitted the situation is "a humiliating shambles" and regrets taking on the contract.

Though I can't think why. The firm will still claim its £57 million management fee, Buckles will keep his £830,000 annual salary (or a £20 million severance package), while the debt-ridden British government (and the taxpayer) have to bail out the private sector yet again.

Pic: Rebecca Tunney, the UK gymnastics champion 

30 comments:

kylie said...

employers seem to have difficulty with understanding that good conditions make for good employees. it's astounding how thick they can be and especially with so much at stake

Wisewebwoman said...

Reminds me of the G20 in Toronto, no one making any money apart from the already loaded Fat Cats.
XO
WWW

Cheerful Monk said...

It's sad that this isn't surprising. No penalty for poor performance?

Nick said...

Kylie - A lot of the time they don't want "good" employees, they just want employees who turn up for work, do what they're told, and keep the profit rolling in.

www - Very true. The fat cats like G4S, Coca-Cola and Samsung get even more money, while the poorest East End residents stay poor - and can't afford the fancy ticket prices for the Olympics.

Nick said...

Monk - There is a penalty, but it's only a small proportion of the overall fee, the rest of which is still payable.

Bijoux said...

I was not aware of any of this. The frightening part is how very important security is, based on past Olympics. It's sad and worrisome that it isn't being handled with the utmost care.

Macy said...

With the work being short term (weeks!) who would reasonably expect employee loyalty?
And of course Jeremy Hunt's already been claiming that it's just a hitch, and pretty much normal for such events. It would have been a different story altogether if the army or any public authority had made such a mess.

Grannymar said...

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, and that seems to be what is happening. Once again we have a perfect example of a Greedathon in full play.

I think it is time we spoke up and reminded folk the the ' Xxxxxxx Games' were awarded to the CITY OF LONDON. So let London pay the bills and leave the rest of us in peace.

Nick said...

Monk - The government now says it will activate all penalty clauses, which could cost the firm £50 million. Nick Buckles said the projected £10 million profit from the contract had turned into a £20m-£30m loss.

Nick said...

Bijoux - It's being handled in an incredibly sloppy fashion. Though if the government had been responsible for it, there's no guarantee they would have handled it any better.

Macy - Indeed, the short employment period must be a factor as well. Especially if you might not be working every day.

Pretty much normal for such events? On which planet? The Olympic torch relay, which also involved thousands of people, has gone off much more smoothly. Likewise the Royal Jubilee.

Nick said...

Grannymar - Very good point. How does the rest of the country benefit from the Olympics? If most of the benefit goes to London, then indeed, they should pay for it.

JohnD said...

Interesting post, Nick - I've taken the liberty of reposting it on The Grandstand Forum at http://www.thegrandstand.net/forum/index.php

Actual re-post location is at http://www.thegrandstand.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=14130&start=60

blackwatertown said...

Reminds me of a guy I was talking to this week about rail privatisation.
He could compare travelling on privately owned trains in the 1930s, then privately owned trains during the war years, then the nationalised ones and now the privatised ones.
He said the customer service today is on a par with the old nationalised British Rail days - but the fares, reliability and public subsidy were all worse.

Nick said...

John D - That's okay. The more people who hear about this fiasco the better.

Paul - I'm sure that's true. Obviously the private companies are cutting standards and raising fares as much as possible so they can maximise their profits.

Los Angelista said...

Sounds like an absolute disaster. Aren't they worried about terrorism and how a hastily cobbled together security force may not be effective at preventing something from happening? Or does money really trump all in this? (sad thought, isn't it?)

Nick said...

Liz: I don't think it's a question of money, because the cost keeps escalating! It's more a question of political dogma - the Cameron government adores the private sector and wants to privatise everything, however dodgy a company's track record.

Rummuser said...

This would also appear to be reverse flow of expertise! India hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2010 which eventually came to be called the Conman's Games as it was a rip off. You can read about that scam from volumes of reports and some criminal cases are still being prosecuted.

Nick said...

Ramana - Don't you mean a reverse flow of incompetence? And certainly the UK Olympics are just as rife with rip-offs and scams of various kinds. Apparently you can't eat anything at the Games that has an unapproved brand name on it....

Secret Agent Woman said...

It's so disturbing to me that governments shunt loads of money to poorly run companies who have no real accountability, while underfunded programs languish.

Nick said...

Agent - As I said, the Cameron government is besotted with private enterprise. And they didn't even spread the security across different firms, they gave the whole lot to G4S.

Liz said...

It's ridiculous, isn't it? Nearly as crazy as G4S saying they expect to get their what was it? £50 million pay out for delivery. I hope not.

Are you watching Twenty Twelve?

Eryl said...

Well, if we will allow ourselves to be ruled by prats...

Nick said...

Liz: Cameron has pledged to activate all the penalty clauses and eat into the £57 million. We'll see if he keeps his promise.

Twenty Twelve is hilarious. And uncannily true to life, by the looks of it.

Eryl: Indeed, as the saying goes, people get the government they deserve. Which in this case is a bunch of out-of-touch privately-educated millionaires.

John Gray said...

humm just been down to london
I know who I would want "looking after" the venues
and it is not a private security company
well done the army!

Cheerful Monk said...

I just read this article. Apparently people in London aren't happy either. They get the nuisance but no benefits:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/sports/olympics/olympics-leave-british-complaining-even-more-than-usual.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120720

Nick said...

John: Certainly not a private security company who obviously don't know what they're doing, and their staff either haven't been properly trained or have absconded.

Monk: Very interesting article. It seems Londoners are now thoroughly pissed off by the general elitism and disruption of the Olympics.

Baino said...

These seem to be very commercially driven games which is kind of against the spirit of the thing. I heard that you have to have a Barclay card to buy tickets, volunteers have to wear sponsor's logos...Sydney was so warm and friendly and easy on the surface. Then, that was before the world changed.

Nick said...

Baino: You're right about Barclays and about the sponsors' logos. There's a widespread ban on unauthorised brand names. There are even bans on local traders plugging anything with an Olympics theme. It's quite absurd. Especially when the current reputation of Barclays is at rock-bottom.

Cheerful Monk said...

I just read this article and thought of you. :)

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444025204577547351535865154.html?_requestid=10269

Nick said...

Monk - Nick Hornby, I see. A good article. Though he doesn't say much about the current Olympics, more about all the disasters Britain has had to deal with in the last few years.