G4S whistle-blowers who guard PSNI stations across Northern Ireland say too many are still being left “alone in a box” for 12 hours without safe seats or proper toilet breaks and often fall below the minimum wage levels.
In recent days Lisburn and Castlereagh Alliance councillor Martin Gregg told the News Letter that G4S is “hanging their employees out to dry” after he was approached by an aggrieved security guard.
The News Letter ran a series of reports last year highlighting similar concerns.
Mr Gregg said guards are regularly left without scheduled breaks and left working beyond their 12-hour shifts. Because guards are rarely paid for such overtime, he said this often takes them below the minimum wage of £8.21 per hour. Officially, they are paid 20p above this, guards say.
A number of G4S whistle-blowers contacted the News Letter to affirm his concerns.
‘George’ said coverage from last year caused a “bit of a reaction” which “fizzled out due to staff shortages”.
A major point of contention is that guards in police station sangers often work alone and are therefore unable to take toilet or lunch until a G4S relief driver arrives.
“The drivers who provide breaks are often having to go elsewhere to cover sickness,” George said. “And sickness is a regular occurrence because of conditions and low morale.”
Some sites get a lunch break at 9am while others get it at 5pm, he said.
“They just bury heads in the sand,” he said. “If you address any issue with a manager they don’t come back.
“We do get paid for missed breaks or overtime, but only if you hassle them repeatedly.”
There is a high staff turnover due to conditions, he claimed. But recent recruitment adverts do not state that guards must have CCTV licences, he said, something he believes the Security Industry Authority has been advised of.
New employees get contracts which pay double time on bank holidays, he said.
“But this means I could be working with a guy on Christmas Day who is getting paid twice as much as me.”
No staff brought across from the previous contractor have been given contracts, he said. “And if you can’t arrange your own cover for annual leave it is cancelled, as they are so short staffed.”
Guards are all keeping records because they expect a major legal action, he added.
G4S station inquiry officers handle inquiries of the utmost gravity yet are paid only half as much as PSNI civilian call handlers, he added. As a result they are resigning “hand over fist”.
David Harris, account director at G4S Secure Solutions responded: “G4S takes employee welfare very seriously and when a complaint is raised we endeavour to address it as quickly as possible. No such concerns have been raised through our proper channels.”