Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Job Security

It's late in the afternoon and I'm standing around outside BCA car auctions in Walsall, waiting for a lift from another driver and talking to yet another, a guy who has been working for the company for a year and who lives in birmingham, but whom I have somehow managed not to meet until today.

He is a big guy - big enough and tattooed enough to be just touching the verges of intimidating. But he is friendly to speak to, and interesting too. Before becoming a plater he worked as a security guard, mainly moving money to and from banks and cash machines.

He left because too many people he knew were getting seriously hurt, and he felt uncomfortable explaining to his kid that the strange stuff he was wearing to go to work was body armour.

He himself was only ever in a van once where 'something happened', which he does not elaborate on, although he tells me another story, about a robbery at a petrol station not far from here which he was not involved in.

The cash machine on the forecourt was being refilled, which is a three man operation. One man remains in the van, one stays in the tiny room behind the cash machine, and the last one walks between them. Two guys strolled over to this last man and without a word of warning shot him, shattering his hip. They then dragged him back to the cash machine and informed the guy inside that they would shoot his colleague again if he didn't open the door. What would you do? The guy didn't open the the door, and the would-be robbers departed without further bloodshed.

The guard who was shot needed a new hip and is not expected to ever regain full fitness.

The driver tells me that to live with this degree of risk he was paid only £10 per hour - a form of daylight robbery against which the body armour provided no protection.

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