The Bar 2 Interviews


Shine the light on ethical hiring during the Olympics.

Meridian Business Support

To use unpaid workers during the Jubilee was exploitation and must not happen in the Olympics

If unpaid jobseekers working as Diamond Jubilee stewards during the boat pageant were truly left to sleep rough under London Bridge, it was sheer exploitation at its very worst.

Claims recently surfaced that security firm Close Protection UK took up to 30 jobseekers and another 50 people on apprentice wages to London by coach from Bristol, Bath and Plymouth on the Saturday before the flotilla as part of the government's work programme.

There, according to allegations made to The Guardian, they had no access to proper toilets for 24 hours and, after working a 14-hour shift in the pouring rain on the banks of the Thames, they were taken to a swampy campsite outside of London.

A Downing Street spokesperson was subsequently reported by The Guardian as dismissing the incident as "a one-off... This is an isolated incident. The company has apologised".

It completely beggars belief that the Royal family underwent days of celebrations while these workers were allegedly treated with zero respect. What is particularly concerning is that all of this unfolded while the eyes of the world were upon us.

Reports of industry in the 19th century document people working in poverty. They did this for low wages and in dangerous and unsanitary conditions. The typical working day was 14 hours, but many were much longer as, without regulation, unscrupulous owners could demand any terms they liked. It just shows how little we've really moved on since then.

It appears free labour is helping companies to undercut other companies who hire ethically, therefore reducing standards across the board. Free labour makes a profit for shareholders at the expense of the very poorest. I refuse to believe that non-skilled stewarding work provides meaningful ‘training' and it certainly doesn't provide the steward with such valuable skills that they don't need to be paid for it.

I am angry at the way in which minimum standards of how employees should be treated appear to have been eroded when claims like this emerge. The fact that this alleged behaviour is being sanctioned by government-endorsed schemes is appalling.

The UK recruitment sector is a shining example of global best practice and we're brilliant at what we do. This is our time to shine and we should be using global events such as the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee to cement our superiority. Instead, we seem intent on exposing our lack of social cohesion, which casts us in a terrible light. Why are we letting other nations think we are cutting corners at the expense of both temporary and unpaid labour?

Nothing could be worse than being seen to be using unpaid workers while the world's attention is focused on us during the Olympics. We must make sure not to confuse people with full-time jobs giving up their time to volunteer with desperate jobseekers being used and mistreated.

Employing this practice is a prime example of short-term thinking, where corners are quickly cut to save costs in HR departments. This is certainly damaging the industry's reputation in the long term.

The government and regulatory authorities must check the practices going on under their noses at our great events so that we can hold our heads up high and continue to feel proud of our UK recruitment industry.

Mark Mitchell is chief executive of Meridian Business Support.



A recent poll conducted by a construction agency based in the South West asked whether there are signs of improvement within the sector and the signs were encouraging with 53% of the respondents suggesting that the current position was more buoyant than at the start of the year; 30% saying no and that the situation remains very difficult; and 15% saying that there has been little or no change from the position in 2011.

Commenting on the survey results, Managing Director of Site Services (Recruitment) Ltd, Rob Hathway stated that in his opinion the "slump in the South West of recent years shows encouraging signs of thawing" and that his agency has so far seen steady and sustained growth in the year to date.

Portland-based construction agency Site Services (Recruitment) Ltd is about to enter its seventh year of trading and has quickly built up a reputation for reliability and prompt, personal service which has seen the numbers of clients serviced, and the number of candidates supplied each week, grow significantly. They specialise in the engineering, utilities, civils, social housing and M&E markets and Rob says he has seen the agency's "demand for skilled engineers - particularly welders and fabricators, increase by around 45% already this year".  Rob currently has a number of vacancies for skilled welders for various projects in the South and South West.

With a note of caution, Rob adds that although confidence appears generally to be on the increase within the region, "work has become increasingly competitive in recent times" and notes that there remains increasing pressure to reduce margins as clients throughout the region remain very budget-conscious. "We've managed to remain in a very positive position and continue to experience reasonable growth through a combination of forward thinking and a straightforward, honest approach to business. As a result, my consultants still have a very positive outlook and that in turn drives them to deliver results and in turn sees their own earnings rise"

If you are looking for work or have vacancies to place and would like to contact Site Services, Rob Hathway and his team can be contacted on 01305 820395

Construction Jobs




Brighter outlook for the Scottish construction sector

Options Network Ltd has been operating out of their offices in Glasgow for the past twelve years and has built up a reputation of professionalism and reliability within the specialised construction, mechanical & engineering sectors in which they operate. This week however, Options Network complete the relocation of their office from Glasgow to the more centrally based Livingstone office in West Lothian.

Managing Director George Skinner says "When looking at our strategy for the future and following some considerable deliberations the decision was made to centralise our operations in a larger office in a location that would allow us to maintain and develop our services to our Clients, Candidates and Staff alike. From a more central location, our ability to communicate, commute and deliver on our commitments is only enhanced. Given the geographical area from which we ourselves can recruit personnel, it is our intention in the short term to add more staff to our specialised Construction and Mechanical & Electrical Divisions with the skill set and training required to quickly add to our resources and capabilities that can be called upon".

The construction sector in Scotland is of major economic importance. It currently employs around 200,000 individuals; accounts for around 6% of total employment in each region throughout Scotland; and some 17,500 businesses operate within the sector or around 11% of all registered businesses in Scotland.

George adds that there are "encouraging signs of growth throughout Scotland at the moment and we are looking very positively at expansion within our sector. Our move to a more centralised location means that we will be ideally placed to take full advantage of the opportunities available"

Options Network can be contacted on 01506 404780 or by visiting