Nick Buckles, Chief Executive of embattled security firm G4S, has made plenty of astonishing statements these past few days.
Yet for me, there has been nothing more shocking than the verbal shrug of the shoulders that explained how ‘normal’ it is for 10% of new recruits to not bother turning up for work.
Just what kind of business is he running?
A normalised no-show rate of 10% would leave most businesses in tatters. The fact that such an appalling recruitment policy did not preclude G4S from winning the Olympic security contract is a stain on the tender process itself.
Some basic leadership skills were lacking in G4S’ management. The questions that any decent Chief Executive would ask simply have not been asked. If you know 10% of your workforce will not turn up for work, you can do one of three things.
- Realise that the type of people you are employing are thoroughly unreliable and as a result completely review the job criteria and selection procedures to ensure a better standard of applicants
- Realise that the application, interview and training procedures are woefully inadequate, and that those managing the recruitment process are incompetent at recognising unreliable applicants at the early stages and weeding them out.
- Sit back, do nothing.
Mr Buckles chose the latter, and it is threatening to risk the security and integrity of the Olympic Games.
When G4S has recruited people so unreliable that they fail to turn up for work, it raises questions as to the quality of new employees who do turn up.
This weekend we’ve seen appalling statements from whistleblowers who have described how bombs, guns and hand grenades have gone unspotted by employees during the training process. It shows that there are some who perhaps want to work, but have not been trained appropriately. But it also shows that some applicants have made the grade, been offered an important job, but are simply not taking their responsibilities seriously.
What is clear is that G4S dramatically exaggerated its ability to recruit the promised 10,400 workers. In attempting to meet their unrealistic promises, they seem to have adopted an ‘anyone will do’ mentality. They have concentrated only on getting bums on seats (and they have even failed at that), but furthermore they appear to have failed to provide the kind of training that will ensure they meet their responsibilities – to protect people from those who might seek to cause them harm.
I charge Mr Buckles with gross negligence, a woeful lack of patriotism and running a company whose entire operation is not fit to clean the boots of our Olympians, never mind protect those who wish to cheer them on.
But the time for recriminations is not now. All those involved in the games have to get their heads down and ensure it’s a success. But when the time is right, heads have to roll. This is not an issue where the Government can say ‘it’s all Labour’s fault’. The contract was awarded to G4S in December 2010, almost 7 months into the coalition Government. The security arrangements for the Olympics have been awarded, planned and implemented purely on this Government’s watch.
Indeed, this Government has found time to deliver unwanted reforms to the NHS, to hold a referendum on how we vote and crucify itself with a disastrous budget. But whilst it has been playing at Government, the very real and primary responsibility of protecting the people it serves has not been prioritised – and for that the Government has to excuse.
I would predict that Mr Buckles will, before long, resign from his post. If Mrs May is a woman of integrity, and actually I believe that she is, I would expect her to resign too.
So to whom do we turn to fix this mess? The army of course – many of whom will have just returned from a tour of duty abroad. For me, it is welcome. They are skilled, dedicated, highly-trained and conscientious. No-one will be able to protect the games better than them. But because of the Government and G4S’ negligence, our military heroes are not getting the break they deserve, forced away from their families once more to do a job the taxpayer had asked others to do. We should say a big thank you to them.
The Olympics will be a fabulous event. We should welcome the world to our island, celebrate with them and cheer Team GB on until our throats are sore. Our athletes have trained and prepared their whole lives for this moment – if only G4S and their Government employers had been as dedicated to the cause.