The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has suggested that security firms G4S and MITIE may have used “undertrained guards” in courts yesterday to break a strike, which was taking place over wages.
The union said it had heard reports of: G4S drafting in eight undertrained staff to cover the Moors murderer, Ian Brady case; G4S using guards from a supermarket to work in an Oldham court and Mitie using non-courts trained staff in Bristol.
If true this move, the PCS says, could put the firms in breach of the law that stipulates they are only allowed to deploy “court-appointed” staff who have been through specific training. The week-long course covers aspects of the law, as well as restraint and handling sharp objects, and only guards that have completed it are legally allowed to work in a court.
Guards and cleaners employed by the companies in magistrates’, crown and county courts in England and Wales were joined by “thousands” of their public sector colleagues for a half-day strike yesterday afternoon.
The staff are campaigning against low pay at the firms that together hold Ministry of Justice contracts worth an estimated £500 million.
More than 16,500 of the union’s members in courts, tribunals, the Crown Prosecution Service and other justice agencies were involved in the half-day walkouts as part of a three-month civil service-wide campaign against government imposed cuts to pay, pensions, jobs and working conditions.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“If what we are told is true, and G4S and Mitie are putting undertrained guards in courts, we believe they are not only in breach of their contracts but also the law, and the companies and the Ministry of Justice have questions to answer.
“Whether employed by this Tory-led government or the profit-hungry private companies, staff provide essential services to the public and deserve to be treated with respect and paid a living wage.”