Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone
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G4S is expected to face financial penalties for failing to recruit, train and deploy enough security guards in time for the start of the Olympics in a fortnight’s time.
As a result of the situation, the coalition government confirmed today that it would have to draft in an additional 3,500 soldiers, many of whom have just returned from tours of duty in Afghanistan, in order to protect the Games’ venues. The armed forces have already pledged to supply 13,500 personnel for the task. But the move became necessary after the private security contractor admitted that it had trained and deployed only 4,000 of the 10,400 staff it was contracted to supply. According to the Telegraph, under the terms of the £284 million deal, G4S was supposed to provide another 6,400 guards by the time the Olympics started and to train an additional 3,300 students and 2,500 volunteers in order to control queues and security check points. A spokesman attested that a further 9,000 people were in the “final stages” of training and could well be deployed to provide security for the Games. Despite the current shortfall, G4S claimed that as many as 20,000 others were also in the early training stages. But the firm also told the Guardian in a statement that it accepted the government’s decision to provide back-up security. “This has been an unprecedented and very complex security recruitment, training and deployment exercise, which has been carried out to a tight timescale,” it said. The company had encountered “some issues in relation to workforce supply and scheduling” over the last few weeks, but was “resolving these every day and remain committed to providing a security workforce for the start of the London 2012 Games”, it added. The newspaper pointed to leaked internal document, which indicated that some of G4S’ problems were down to a lack of discipline and subsequently high attrition rates among new recruits. Although thousands of people had been through its training programme, a lot dropped out when faced with the reality of the job’s pay and conditions. The documents apparently showed that, during a “lockdown exercise” last week, the company was able to supply less than half of the 750-security checked guards required to protect the Olympic stadium and aquatic park, which meant that military personnel had to be called in to ensure adequate patrols. G4S’ chairman and chief executive have been summoned to appear before the Commons home affairs committee next week to explain the situation. There is already speculation that it could face fines of tens of thousands of pounds per venue per day and that senior managers could be demoted.