UK jubilee stewards slept under bridge

2012-06-07 14:30
London - A government contractor promised on Thursday to investigate reports that unpaid stewards brought to London for royal jubilee celebrations were left to sleep out overnight in the cold under a bridge.

The Prospects Group, the company responsible for providing the workers, was reacting to a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper on the affair.

Up to 30 unpaid job seekers and 50 apprentices were dropped off overnight before Sunday's river pageant, the newspaper reported.

They had been bussed into the capital to help marshal crowds of over a million people watching the pageant of 1 000 boats on the Thames river, part of four days of celebrations for the queen's 60 years on the throne.

‘Left in the rain’

Two workers told the newspaper they had had no access to toilets for 24 hours, had to change into security gear in public and were sent to a swampy campsite outside London after their 14-hour shift in chilly temperatures and rain.

"London was supposed to be a nice experience, but they left us in the rain," an unnamed female steward told the paper.

"No one is supposed to be treated like that, (working) for free. I don't want to be treated where I have to sleep under a bridge and wait for food."

The unpaid workers were there as part of the government's work programme, under which the unemployed must take up work placements to continue receiving benefits. The scheme in southwest England is contracted out to Prospects Group.

A statement on the firm's website said it would "carry out a full investigation to ascertain the facts and make recommendations for the future" adding that some of the workers could get "restitution".

Security firm Close Protection UK, which was involved in recruitment, has apologised.

Cameron: One-off incident

Employment charity Tomorrow's People, which also helped place the workers, said "what happened to our clients on their arrival in London was totally unacceptable".

But it added that the workers were provided with equipment and a security accreditation card which would enable them to get paid work at the London Olympics, which start on July 27.

The office of Prime Minister David Cameron called the incident "isolated" and defended its work programme, which has been criticised as unpaid labour.

"The work programme is about giving people who have often been out of the workplace for quite some time the chance to develop the skills they need to get a job that is sustainable," a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

"This is a one-off."
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