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(RNN) – A group of unpaid and apprentice workers at Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee were reportedly bused in and told to sleep under the London Bridge.
The staff complained of no toilet access, being forced to change clothes in public and getting shipped to a swampy campsite after a 14-hour workday, according to The Guardian. A female worker said they were picked up in Bristol at 11 p.m. Saturday and arrived in London at 3 a.m. Sunday.
"We all got off the coach, and we were stranded on the side of the road for 20 minutes until they came back and told us all to follow them," she told The Guardian. "We followed them under London Bridge, and that's where they told us to camp out for the night … It was raining and freezing."
The BBC reported ex-Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott urged officials to launch an inquiry into the allegations.
The security firm Close Protection UK hired 80 "stewards" – 30 unpaid and 50 apprentices at the equivalent of $4.30 an hour – to work at a pageant along the Thames River. The company won a government contract for events during the three-day jubilee and also has a contract for the upcoming Summer Olympics.
A Close Protection spokesman said the unpaid work was a tryout for paid positions during the Olympics. The company apologized for the buses being two hours ahead of schedule – causing the need to sleep under the bridge – but did not comment on any of the other alleged mistreatment.
Molly Prince, managing director of Close Protection UK, said in a statement: "We take the welfare of our staff and apprentices very seriously indeed."
Stewards told The Guardian they had been told it was a paid position, only to find out later it was not. One of the workers said she and the other women waited outside a locked bus where they were supposed to change into their security clothes, but ultimately they had to get undressed in the rain.
The issue raised questions about what was done with the 1.5 million pounds allocated by the government for "the pageant stewarding and crowd management plan."
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