In a recent interview with the Gown, Gordon Douglas (Director of the Students' Union) and Fraser Collie (Commercial Services and Finance Supervisor), defended the Union Management Boards (UMB) decision to outsource its security contract to private security provider G4S.
On 17th April this year, a meeting was held to inform current security staff within the union about the planned changes. In attendance were the UMB, current security staff members and the G4S's operations director for Northern Ireland. Mr Douglas and Mr Collie said that the plans were part of a continuing effort to implement the proposed strategies developed by the Students' Union Resources and Development Sub-Group in May of 2011. The sub-group proposed that “…the Students' Union will increase the usage of external security provision and management, by utilising the G4S Event Security Supervisor (ESS) service to manage events.”
Mr Collie and Mr Douglas both conceded however that the decision had been made before either of them had arrived at the SU.
In response to a question drawing into light the strategic plan of the Students' Union Mr Douglas responded by saying, “We are committed to employing students.
“The strategic plan was all about getting more jobs for students.”
Further to concerns regarding the Strategic Plan of the SU, Mr Douglas explained that the emphasis was on helping students throughout their studies and making sure they had money in their pocket and that students would be allowed to develop different skills to help them gain future employment.
Regarding the recruitment of security staff in the SU, Mr Collie and Mr Douglas were unable to declare with confidence the last time a security staff member had been employed directly by the SU. Mr Collie however defended the plain lack of recruitment in recent years and explained that a significant number of graduate workers had chosen to continue their contracts with the SU.
“If everybody is re-applying for their positions and they were then re-instated then there wouldn't be any need for a recruitment drive,
“The focus of the strategic plan is to move away from that so people in the SU are employed while they are students,” explained Mr Collie.
When asked whether or not G4S would be obliged to recruit only students to work in the SU he replied that they would and further added that there will be Key Performance Indicators (KPI) in place to ensure that the security contract is monitored closely by the SU. Mr Collie added that, “…the fundamental issue here is that we're not outsourcing jobs, we're outsourcing the management of a contract.”
“We have never been security specialists and by asking a professional security company to come in and run the contract it's actually going to give the students more experience, skills and qualifications.”
Mr Douglas went on to explain the difficulties in trying to find a balance where there are undergraduate/postgraduate students and graduates working in the SU. He believes “…it's difficult for them [UG/PG Students] as well so we're trying to find a balance where we want as many students as possible to have more money in their pockets.”
Mr Douglas expressed and understanding of the concerns of those security staff affected and assured that the SU will do its best for them in the near future.
More on this story as it unfolds.