G4S aware months ago of delays in Olympic security recruitment

ITV News wrote to G4S in May about concerns over delays in security recruitment. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Winning

Across the country G4S staff are failing to arrive for their important work as Olympic security guards. The company claims the scale of the problem only became fully apparent in the last few weeks.

Even the Prime Minister says “the full extent of” the problem “didn't come to light until relatively recently.”

But ITV News reported back in May that there were serious concerns about the ability of G4S to provide enough trained staff.

Below is the full letter we sent them on the 16th of May and their response on the 17th of May. The letter was also CC’d to the London Olympic Organisers LOCOG and to the Home Office.

The G4S response is fascinating, it apparently confirms that managers were aware of delays on recruitment months ago, it says:

“Inevitably, there can be delays at some stages of the recruitment process and staying in touch with every potential recruit can also be a challenge. We are confident, however, that we can resolve any day-to-day issues…

And that same G4S response suggests LOCOG and the Home Office were aware of the recruitment problems, the G4S statement to ITV News also says:

LOCOG and the Home Office have visibility of our progress at every stage and are made fully aware of any issues which arise along the way.

Here is our letter to G4S from 2 months ago and the company’s response:

16, May 2012

ITV News letter to G4S:

As you know I have been looking at the training of security personnel for the 2012 Olympics. I’d like to outline for you the issues in order for you to respond for the purposes of a television report to be broadcast on ITV News tomorrow. My understanding is that the questions we are raising are already being asked by the Home Office and that a series of ‘extraordinary meetings’ have been held with worried officials at the Home Office. One source told us ‘Group 4S have had a fire put under them’. In addition the G4S Facebook board and other security message boards have many comments by recruits complaining of delays, lack of communication etc.

Based on our enquiries so far these are the concerns that I would like you to address:

  1. We believe that less than 50% of those invited to train for an SIA licence are turning up and passing the course. This is, of course, only the first stage of the training. It has meant classes half full and that in the last four weeks some classes have had to be cancelled. It appears that currently 5,000 of the more than 10,000 people needed are going through the Olympic specific training that follows the SIA course.

  2. We believe that Group 4S has cut the number of training days in order to speed up the process, dropping the first ‘foundation module’ day in which basics are taught. This could raise concern particularly because it’s understood many recruits have only basic reading and writing skills.

3 In addition, we have been told by some recruits that they are already being trained despite not yet passing the security screening process. This again appears to be aimed at speeding up the process, but it risks allowing people who have not been properly vetted to learn the security procedures for the Olympics. This includes training for vital supervisor roles.

4 Some recruits have told us that they have been waiting for months for the screening process to be completed and that Group 4S lost their documents on a number of occasions. They also complain of waiting for an hour or more to get through on the telephone. Messages on the Group 4S Facebook board appear to confirm this – one reads: ‘Apologies for taking our time getting back to you all. We are currently processing thousands of candidates…’

5 We believe that the Home Office is preparing a new strategy for security in case Group 4S is unable to provide the numbers of security personnel promised.

6 During the last Bank Holiday weekend high profile test events were held. We understand that this raised some serious issues. A number of sources have told us there was a substantial failure rate on x-ray screening. It’s understood that more training is now planned for this role, but we understand that many of those who took part on behalf of G4S are not the staff that will carry out security during the games.

In one case, we have been told, a mother has written to the Home Office to complain that her son was put on guard duty during the test weekend when he was not trained. In the letter she is said to claim that her son turned up to carry out a logistics role, but was mistaken for G4S staff. He was assigned to guard duties despite complaining a number of times that this was not his role and he was not trained (or indeed vetted).

We would be grateful for your response to the above points and in addition can you clarify the following questions:

1 Yesterday a spokesman from G4S said 10,000 people are in the process of being trained, can you clarify what this means? (our understanding is that so far 5,000 people have a SIA licence and are going through Olympic specific training).

2 How many people are trained, vetted and ready for work at this stage?

3 When do you expect all security staff to be trained, vetted and ready for work?

4 Are some people being trained before they have been cleared through vetting? Has a decision been made to begin training supervisors before they have been vetted? (some people have told us they have been waiting since January).

5 Yesterday a spokesperson for G4S said the company is still recruiting security personnel. On Monday the G4S website said the closing date was this Friday May the 18th. By Tuesday the closing date had moved to 15th November 2011. It now says the closing date is the 14th May. Can you clarify whether G4S is still recruiting security personnel?

6 Can you confirm that G4S will still be able to provide the 10,000+ staff needed for security at the games? Might more staff be needed even than the 10,400 to complete the work?

It is important that your response is included in the above report. We anticipate you would provide a spokesperson for an on camera interview. We would make facilities available to film the interview and would anticipate the interview taking place before lunchtime tomorrow

All the best

Keir Simmons

Response from G4S:

17 May 2012G4S statement to ITV News:

“We are unable to respond to specific requests for information on workforce recruitment and training statistics on any given day as the data is constantly changing as we get closer to Games-time. There has been a huge amount of public interest in these roles and we have completed over 100,000 candidate interviews to date.

Even for the largest employer in the FTSE, recruiting a 10,000+ strong workforce to secure the Olympic Games was always going to be a challenging assignment, but it is one that we are confident that we can meet.

We have built resilience and contingencies into our planning processes based on our experience of recruitment and deployment of large workforces at other major events - our processes take all of this experience into account and give us confidence that we will deploy the right number of properly trained and screened security personnel in line with the requirements of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

During the recruitment process, candidates go through a number of phases which include initial interviews, background screening, general security training and role-specific training – the process is completed once the candidate has been through each of those stages and received LOCOG accreditation to take up a role within the Olympic security workforce.

Behind the scenes we have a large team of recruiters, trainers and screeners across the UK, all working hard as part of our 750-strong London 2012 project management team to make sure that we achieve our goals.

This on-going process means that the numbers of people at each stage changes every day and our precise processes and practices are being refined on an on-going basis as we build on our experience and find more efficient ways of operating.

Inevitably, there can be delays at some stages of the recruitment process and staying in touch with every potential recruit can also be a challenge. We are confident, however, that we can resolve any day-to-day issues and achieve high levels of candidate engagement.

Feedback from test events and planned exercises to date has been very useful – we learn from each of them and adapt our processes accordingly in conjunction with LOCOG and our other security partners. LOCOG and the Home Office have visibility of our progress at every stage and are made fully aware of any issues which arise along the way.

We remain absolutely focused on what is required of us to secure the Games alongside our other security workforce partners. The chance to work at the Olympic Games is a fantastic opportunity for people in the UK and we hope they will enjoy joining our team and playing their part in a moment of history.”