Under-fire Jubilee steward firm to supply fire marshalls for Olympics


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The Independent Online

The security company embroiled in the row over unpaid workers at the Queen's Jubilee celebrations has been given a leading role in fire safety at the London Olympics, i has learnt.

Close Protection UK will supply fire marshals to the Games after winning a competitive tendering process.

It also emerged that over the past four years, Molly Prince, Close Protection UK's managing director, has headed five firms which filed no accounts and were dissolved.

On Sunday morning, 30 jobseekers and 50 apprentices were told to sleep under London Bridge where they had to change into their security uniform in public, before working a 14-hour shift in the rain. Ms Prince, 46, blamed logistical problems, saying the workers – 30 unpaid and 50 apprentices on £2.80 an hour – should have stayed on the coach that brought them from around the UK before doing their shift. She said: "It was badly handled and for that we have extensively apologised. We're not in the business of exploiting free labour."

It had been known that Close Protection had a contract to provide security at the Olympics – but not that 50 of its workers would also be shepherding spectators to safety in the event of a fire.

The latest accounts for Close Protection UK Ltd, to 31 March 2011, show that the business – which is run out of a small office in Wigan, Lancashire – had total current assets of £35,000 and current liabilities of £185,000.

Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister, last night questioned the firm's role in a letter of complaint to Home Secretary Theresa May.

"I want to know how did this company, given its economic background, get a contract to handle fire safety and security," he wrote. Yesterday morning, even before the nature of its role in the safety precautions put in place by the Games organisers was revealed, Lord Prescott asked: "Is this the Olympic model?"

In response, Ms Prince said: "It was a logistics error – they arrived almost two hours early. We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously. The nature of the work is such that we often sleep on coaches."

A London 2012 spokesperson said: "Close Protection UK is providing some fire marshal services for us. All employees will be paid the London living wage. CPUK was appointed via a competitive tender process."