The Olympic Park in Stratford, London; one of the locations for which G4S has to provide security guards. Photograph: Steve Rose/Getty Images
The private security firm due to supply thousands of guards for the Olympics is considering bringing in staff from other parts of its business empire amid growing fears of a security shortfall.
With just over two weeks until the opening ceremony, it was revealed on Wednesday that the military has been asked to provide 3,500 extra to help guard the London Olympics due to concerns G4S will be unable to deliver.
G4S, the world’s largest security company, said it had put employees working on other contracts on standby as time runs out to train and accredit the number of guards needed to secure Olympic venues.
The company, which runs prisons and immigration removal centres in the UK, was unable to say exactly how many guards it still needed but added it had the option of moving staff from other parts of its UK businesses. Earlier this week it was reported that it was as many as 9,000 guards short and was calling in retired police officers to fill vacant roles.
The decision to consider transferring G4S employees has raised concerns that key parts of the UK’s criminal justice system could be left short-staffed.
Keith Vaz, chair of the home affairs select committee, said people should not be moved from “crucial posts” to fill a shortage at the Olympics.
“I am deeply concerned by reports that G4S is considering removing staff from its other areas to fill a gap in Olympic security officers. This not only highlights an inability to hire, accredit and train the required number of security staff in time for the Olympics, but may now leave other areas underresourced.”
He said he would be writing to the home secretary about the matter.
G4S, which was originally enlisted to provide 2,000 guards, increased its contribution in December and is now due to supply more than 10,000, managing the training for 23,700 personnel â€“ including the military â€“ in a contract worth Â£284m.
To ensure security arrangements run smoothly the firm says it needs to recruit and train thousands of extra guards on top of this figure to cover for illness and recruits that drop out.
G4S declined to give a specific figure in relation to the number of guards it still needed, saying the picture was constantly changing. A company spokesman added it remained confident a “robust workforce” would be in place for the start of the games.
“Our programme to train and deploy our security workforce for the 2012 Games is continuing and has stepped up in the past few weeks. Issues we have faced over scheduling and deployment are being worked out and we are continuing to work hard to get a robust workforce in place for the start of the Games.”
Anxiety around Olympic security arrangements has put growing pressure on G4S. According to a company source, senior figures at the firm have been locked in emergency talks over the past few days and the company is understood to be in daily contact with Home Office officials.
In an indication of the level of anxiety in Whitehall, it is understood that the home secretary, Theresa May, called senior G4S executives on Friday after the firm failed to supply enough staff for patrols last week at venues in the Olympic Park, east London.
G4S employs 657,000 staff in more than 125 countries and is one of the world’s largest private-sector employers. Its turnover has almost doubled since 2005, standing at Â£7.5bn in 2011. In the UK it is playing an increasingly prominent role in sectors previously run by the government, including prisons, immigration and policing. In April it began work on a Â£200m contract in Lincolnshire where it will design, build and run a police station in a deal that has seen more than 575 public-sector police staff transfer to the company.