Jobcentre Security Guards Strike Back

Last Tuesday, the Socialist Party participated in the nationwide strike by Jobcentre security guards organised by GMB. The workers expressed dissatisfaction with the wages they receive over what they consider a high-risk job with inadequate support and equipment.

While in the past, they were civil servants directly employed by the government, this was privatised and outsourced. Most of the security tasks in Jobcentres across the country are contracted to the private company G4S, which has a net worth of £2 billion as of 2022 and its parent company, Allied Universal, have recorded a revenue of $18 billion in the year 2023. Meanwhile, the security guards in the Jobcentre are paid the national minimum wage of £11.44 per hour and they have to work across 6 days a week with little to no flexibility in their work schedule, while receiving only 20 days of paid leave excluding bank holidays.

The security guards must handle the verbal and sometimes dangerous physical abuse caused by the misdirected anger of those in need. However, the workers are given nothing more than a body camera and radio that does not always work with no backup to call upon. On top of that, they have the responsibility to provide first aid and handle the mental health issues of claimants when necessary. Yet, despite all the risk and responsibilities, they are being paid less than a nightclub bouncer who earns around £14.03 on average.

With the increasing cost of living, the union are demanding the company to raise their salary to £12 an hour. In West Midlands alone, more than 40 security guards from Jobcentres across the city joined the strike. Many of them were striking the first time in their life.

The workers and union representatives gathered on the picket line in front of the Jobcentres in Erdington and Wolverhampton. The lack of security staff caused Jobcentres in Dudley, Solihull, Perry Barr and Yardley to shut while G4S will be fined for the disruption. Although  G4S have yet to budge, GMB are planning for further strikes over the coming month.

According to the accounting information available to the public, G4S and its parent company are currently failing to meet the shareholders’ expectation and that is likely the cause of its reluctance to increase staff wages. However, this only shows the true nature of corporations, the utmost priority of a private company is to deliver the highest profit for its shareholders, while the wellbeing of the staff is merely an afterthought at best.

Instead of contracting such tasks to companies like G4S, the only long-term solution is for the government to directly employ the workers as civil servants. Such an arrangement would not be possible under the Department of Work and Pension led by a Tory like Mel Stride and is unlikely to change under the potential leadership of a new government under Keir Starmer. Incidents like these only show the need for a party of the working class.

Written by workers for workers.

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