Remember a few weeks ago, when I did my article on Sevco asking for volunteer stewards?
Well that story took an odd twist last night, when I was sent a copy of the accounts for a company called Garrion Security.
They are the firm owned and operated by Sevco, whose registered offices are at Ibrox.
They also do security for the stadium, during match-days.
Garrion has an interesting background story; they were formed as a subsidiary of Sevco when the company was created in 2012, under the initial name Rangers Security Services Limited. Their initial shareholders were Charles Green and Brian Stockbridge.
This made a lot of sense then and now. When it comes to big events, the security industry in the UK is essentially dominated by one organisation, G4S, who bought over their main competitor for this business, Rock Steady, back in 2008.
G4S’s virtual monopoly allows them to charge what they want; no other security company in the country can put so many boots on the ground in a short time, or has the know-how and experience in dealing with big crowds for sporting or other leisure events. It’s sensible that if an organisation can provide its own people to handle that stuff that they should try to do it.
Back in 1994, Celtic set up Protectevent, with Fergus as one of the initial shareholders, for the very same purpose. Its directors now are Peter Lawwell, Mike Nicholson and Christopher McKay. Its registered offices are at Celtic Park. It has its own records online, with up to date accounts which aren’t in any detail – they are covered under the main accounts for Celtic itself – but don’t contain any “going concern” issues or otherwise.
Garrion Security’s does contain a “going concern” notice. The company has debts, carried entirely by the parent organisation. They posted a profit two years ago, in exceptional circumstances, due to the Commonwealth Games and other events, but the last accounts show a loss. Their records are those of a continually loss-making organisation, another part of the general loss-making group that calls itself The Rangers International Football Club Plc.
Nothing whatsoever would be exceptional about any of this; they are a small cog in a big, rattling wheel.
But the plea for volunteer workers rings alarm bells with certain people, and it should. Because Garrion employs nine full-time members of staff and over 400 part time workers right now, at an annual wage cost of some £600,000.
That’s no joke. That’s real money.
Sevco had a rare old time with the PR war some months ago, in pointing out that they were a “Living Wage employer” whilst we weren’t.
True, and to our shame.
But Celtic’s hiring policies and wage policies were highlighted, first, by the fans themselves and the Trust in particular who pushed for a change in them, and raised it at the AGM.
The club’s initial decision not to pay the Living Wage as a guaranteed rate was also done publicly, where everyone could see it, along with pointing out that most of our staff were getting paid more than that, but that it was not a matter of club policy to guarantee that level of salary to everyone.
Above board, out where it couldn’t be missed.
As I pointed out, in the article I did as a follow up to the initial story, when Partick Thistle moved forward with a scheme to hire one volunteer worker for its media offices, there was outrage. The press hammered them. Civic Scotland was up in arms.
The STUC, the Scottish Government, the Labour Party and others lined up to condemn them.
Thistle were offering an opportunity for someone to get a foothold in the media, albeit unpaid; this is hardly an original thought. The staff rooms of newspapers and media offices all over the country are filled to the rafters with people taking advantage of similar schemes.
The double standard is hard to stomach.
What Sevco was up to was on a different level.
They were asking for match-day volunteers, fans to stand outside the ground on cold days and help other supporters. I waited for the media outrage, for Civic Scotland to express a view. Nothing doing. Silence. I had expected it, but there was no point in making a song and dance about it at the time.
“Let things take their course,” I thought. “See if the story pops up somewhere.”
And it hasn’t.
Weeks have gone by and Sevco’s scheme is already advancing forward.
Not one civic organisation has uttered a word, although there are clear-cut issues with this, including those surrounding health and safety and whether or not these “volunteers” will be licensed, trained, able to deal with difficult or dangerous situations as they arise.
And that only gets worse when you consider, as I have having seen those accounts, what the full implications of that scheme might be.
If Sevco cuts that 400 strong workforce by even a quarter, and replaced them with volunteers, then Garrion Security goes from being a loss making company to one that might actually show a profit. Cut that workforce in half and they will actually look healthy, and add £100,000 or more to the overall balance sheet at Ibrox.
We’re not just talking here about hiring volunteers; we’re talking about bringing in people to work for free so you can cut paid staff levels, and Civic Scotland should be very animated by a prospect like that. There should be questions about it.
Since the medias has singularly failed to tackle this, or even think about it, I have a suggestion for them, and one that will bear fruit for the minimum effort.
Any hack who fancies it, contact the Ibrox media department and ask them one simple question; is the volunteer scheme they advertised for earlier this month going to result in job losses or cuts to the current level of paid staff at games?
And whilst they’re at it, if they fancy another:
Will the club assure fans that public safety will not be compromised by any reduction in the number of trained, paid, staff available to work on match-days?
This was out there, at the time, an obvious measure when they asked for volunteer workers in the first place. Is that really about enhancing the match-day experience at Ibrox, or is it about cutting back on salaries and turning Murray, Gilligan and Blair’s baby (the three directors of Garrion) into something that isn’t a drag on an already distressed organisation?
Look, this is business. That’s all it is.
It’s a typical move by a company losing money and it’s even a responsible one from the point of view of looking after the shareholders.
But if this is the plan then this one has safety implications if those volunteers aren’t as well trained and qualified as paid staff. It’s also pretty socially reprehensible, ditching paid staff so you can bring in people willing to work for free.
Companies all over the country, who have taken advantage of government workfare schemes have been named and shamed for it, and the consumers given a chance to decide whether they want to do business with such people.
Here, there are sponsors and advertisers and other organisations who should be allowed the same decision.
This is a news story, given the club’s “place in society” and especially when they have tried to make hay out of another organisation’s own hiring and salary policies.
I wonder if anyone in the mainstream media has the guts to ask these questions, get the answers and actually write it?
We live in hope, but not too much of it.