Supermarket security staff could be guarding Britain's nuclear deterrent, the country's largest union has warned.
Unite has expressed fears that the proposed privatisation of the Ministry of Defence Guard Service (MGS) will lead to a drop in standards and training, with possible adverse repercussions for the security of sites like the nuclear bases at Faslane and Coulport in Scotland.
The MGS employs over 2,000 guards, providing unarmed security for more than 100 Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites, including the MoD main building in Whitehall and naval bases at Portsmouth and Devonport. Unite national officer for the MoD and government departments Mike McCartney said:
"The UK government is planning to open up the MGS, whose personnel are well-trained, to privatisation. Unite wholeheartedly opposes these plans and considers any such proposals are irrational and dangerous to the security not only of MoD sites, but to the security of our service personnel, their families and to all the civilians employed across these sites.
"If these proposals went ahead we could see someone deterring shoplifters at a supermarket on a Sunday then that same person turning up to guard a nuclear site on Monday. Employment conditions, training and standards could be compromised in 'a race to the bottom' by a private company keen to maximise profit."
"The prospect of an outsourcing company such as G4S, which was in charge during December's prison riot in Birmingham and responsible for the security fiasco at the 2012 Olympics, taking over the MGS makes the heart sink and should be a matter of serious public concern.
"The MoD believes that by privatising the MGS there could be a saving about £17 million over five years, however, Unite does not believe that these savings could be made."
“We further believe that this is not a cost saving exercise, but merely a ruse so the MoD can meet the government's target to axe 30 per cent of the civilian workforce across the whole of the MoD. These controversial plans should be dropped immediately."
The MoD, meanwhile, said:
“We are reviewing the way we provide our guarding at some sites but would never make changes that put safety and security in jeopardy. No final decisions have been made and senior staff of the MOD Guard Service, Trade Unions and security representatives will be engaged in this process.”
It added that "there are many ways of achieving" safety and security at its sites, "of which the Ministry of Defence Guard Service is just one", but that it does not comment on specific site security arrangements.