Government delegations staying at the five-star Gleneagles hotel for Cop26 were guarded by security personnel who slept on camping cots in a 40-person dormitory set up in a lounge at the venue, raising concerns about Covid safety at the climate summit.
The team of men were recruited and housed by a security company under a Foreign Office contract just days before the world leaders summit opened at the Glasgow climate talks. Three individuals have now come forward to raise their concerns about the cramped and unsanitary conditions in which they were housed at the luxury hotel.
One worker claimed: “We were treated like animals. We would have to take our food back to the same room – extremely stuffy from the warmth and the body odour – we’d have to eat in that same room. The showers were filthy. No cleaners were hired because we weren’t important enough for that.”
Delegates entering the Cop26 conference were asked to provide daily proof of a negative Covid-19 test. It is understood that security staff were instructed to follow similar rules, but the staff recruited to patrol Gleneagles claim this was not enforced by their team leaders who they say did not require daily proof of a negative test.
“We weren’t tested for even one of those days as we shared beds with the day shift and slept right next to each other,” the worker claimed to the Guardian. “[The delegates] weren’t safe from Covid-19 because we weren’t tested once.”
Members of the security team have also claimed that personnel were not properly vetted, because not all identities were checked on arrival when they started the job.
Workers say they were asked on the job application form to provide details of their identity, immigration status and show their Security Industry Authority (SIA) licences. However, sources within the team claim that when they turned up for work not everyone was asked for ID or required to show their SIA cards.
Gleneagles hosted more than 30 international delegations including South Korea, Switzerland, Norway and Spain.
The company that employed the men was Optima Group. It was contracted by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to provide security at Gleneagles and a number of other Cop26 sites throughout the duration of the conference.
The firm, which also provided security at the recent G7 summit in Cornwall, accepted its crew were housed in a 40-bed dormitory, but rejected the allegations about security and Covid checks. In a statement, Optima said:
“Optima takes very seriously any claims in relation to its behaviour or performance. Having undertaken an initial investigation, we have found no evidence to support the claims made. At no point prior to being contacted by the Guardian were we aware of any unresolved issues connected with this task. All obligations under our contract regarding the Gleneagles Hotel security task have been met in full, including Covid testing and ID checks.”
The firm said all officers involved held valid and current SIA licences as required by law and that these had to be displayed during shifts and were checked daily. It said criminal records checks were made, and each officer was further vetted under a Foreign Office system, and that individuals were monitored throughout the duration of Cop26. Passes were supplied to officers as soon as they were received, and in the meantime interim arrangements were put in place.
Staff were instructed to bring Covid tests to complete daily and Optima received no reports of non-compliance. Additional tests were supplied if requested. If staff did not complete tests, they would have been in breach of contracts.
One worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed the security team was “extremely poorly vetted, or not vetted at all” and that the contractor “couldn’t know that the people that turned up to work were the same people who filled out the application”.
“We didn’t know who those people were. No one checked,” claimed one worker, on condition of anonymity.
The makeshift dormitory, with staff sleeping on folding cot beds and in sleeping bags, was set up in a lounge area of a conference and sporting facility on the Gleneagles estate.
Gleneagles was contracted by the Foreign Office to provide secure parking and a lounge space where staff could eat and relax between shifts. However, on 12 October, during a pre-event site inspection, organisers for Optima are understood to have proposed using the lounge also as sleeping accommodation.
A Gleneagles spokesperson said: “During the event, the organisers were self-sufficient and responsible for outsourcing their own amenities and services. The Gleneagles team had no access nor operational oversight of the contracted space.”
Members of the security team raised concerns over the accommodation conditions soon after arrival and were offered an extra £25 a day on top of the £200 a day rate in compensation, according to an email sent last week by a member of security staff and seen by the Guardian.
However, the duration of the security contracts – initially advertised to run from 28 October to 4 November – was later reduced by two days at short notice, ending on 2 November.
A Cop26 spokesperson said: “The safety and security of delegates, local residents, and staff is at the core of our operational planning for Cop26.”