Talking to a few soldiers last night was an interesting experience. They were stood on guard in Greenwich at midnight and wanted to hear a song (I had my guitar with me). I wanted to play them something, but wanted to talk to them more.
I have heard a lot about the army being called in to deal with the security shortfall at the Olympics, and how G4S underestimated the personnel they would need to staff all the venues and secure the Games. I wanted to hear the details of this experience from the squadie perspective.
The government called the army in to cover G4S, as British forces have been providing security for cities in Afghanistan and Iraq for ten years, so are experts at the task at hand. On a level, you can understand the decision to draft them in. But how has this been done?
The Royal Fusileers have just come back from a tour of Afghanistan. The story goes, they were on the plane back, and got told they were on duty in London and had two days to turn around, see their families, then go and fill-in for the dishonest, useless G4S.
Six months in Afghanistan and its horrors, its torments, its discomfort, then one night with the wife and kids, then to London to stand around on twelve hour shifts (with the other twelve hours on stand-by).
Our soldiers are damn tough. And damn good. The guys I spoke to last night were also damn nice. But asking them to do this seems almost sadistic. "I hope you're getting paid well" I said, assuming there was some serious bonus for those on Olympic duty.
No. No there isn't. They get a £6 bonus, Lance Corporal *** said - "Oh, hourly?" I asked. "Daily" he replied. That's on top of a £3 hourly salary for Lance Corporal ***, which beats the hell out of Corporal *****'s £1.85 p/h.
If this isn't a bloody scandal, what the hell is? A private security firm fail to live up to their commitments, leaving our best and brightest and stretched to pick up the pieces on a pathetic wage. They are doing the jobs of G4S, for less than a quarter of the wage of even it's temporary employees.
This ain't right. G4S are getting fined huge volumes, but the process of selecting them and any future contracts with them should be reviewed and then torn up. The ministers responsible should be called to account for this almighty injustice.