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Protestors set their sights on multinational security giant G4S

Over 70 protestors gathered outside the annual general meeting (AGM) of the multinational corporation G4S in London yesterday, accusing the company of violating human rights in Israel, Palestine and the UK and providing information to shareholders on some of the company's alleged abuses.

False information

As shareholders walked into the building in Paternoster Square, home to the London Stock Exchange, they were handed copies of a fake G4S publication, entitled Alternative Report and Accounts 2012, outlining the role of the company and its employees in Israel and Palestine; immigration detention; and the privatisation of policing and welfare services. [1]

The protest in London came the day after activists issued a fake Standard & Poor's press release which stated that the ratings agency had lowered its short-term and long-term corporate credit ratings on G4S, reflecting "our expectation that the loss of important public contracts with the UK government will sensibly affect the operating performance of G4S in the United Kingdom and will have a negative impact on the company's financial soundness." [2]

Campaigners claim that the press release "reached more than a thousand financial journalists and financial actors" subscribed to the Standard & Poor's email list. [3]

The ratings agency issued a formal statement on the evening of 6 June to rebut the claims made in the fake message: "Standard & Poor's has become aware of information in the market indicating our rating on G4S has changed. We confirm that we have not taken any rating action since our last publication on G4S on April 24, 2012." [4]

Negative publicity

G4S is the world's largest security company and at one point was on the verge of becoming the world's second-largest company before a planner merger fell through. [5] It received widespread negative publicity last year following the death of Jimmy Mubenga, who died after he was forcibly restrained by three G4S guards during a forced deportation in October 2010. [6]

Mubenga's family and their supporters are still awaiting a decision on whether G4S will be charged with corporate manslaughter in relation to his death. In March it was reported that a statement from Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, was "imminent." [7]

Mubenga's death led to protests outside the company's 2011 AGM, and in September last year the company lost its contract to carry out deportations after 773 complaints of abuse were made.

The Alternative Report and Accounts 2012 also notes the involvement of G4S in the Israeli prison system, in which Palestinian political prisoners are "systematically denied" basic rights "including the right to a fair trial and to protection from arbitrary detention."

Over 300 people are currently held in arbitrary detention by the Israeli authorities, with some 4,500 people from the occupied Palestinian territory imprisoned in Israel, [8] seemingly in contravention of the fourth Geneva Convention which states that "protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country."

G4S provides systems, services and equipment to a number of prisons and detention facilities in which "Palestinian prisoners are regularly subjected to torture and ill-treatment," according to the Alternative Report and Accounts 2012.

In Australia last June, two private security guards employed by G4S pleaded not guilty to charges relating to the death of Mr Ward, who died after spending nearly four hours in the back of a van with no air conditioning and metal seating, on a day when temperatures reached nearly 40 degrees centigrade.

In 2009 the Western Australia State Coroner found that "the State, the company and the workers had all contributed to Mr Ward's death." [9]

Keeping contracts

Although the firm may have lost its contract to deport failed asylum seekers, it still obtains a significant amount of income from other work for the UK government.

In March 2011, it was awarded the contract for providing security at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the payment for which increased from £86 million to £284 million after the Home Office decided that its initial estimate of 10,000 guards was "woefully inadequate." [10] 23,000 guards will now be provided by the company.

One member of a parliamentary committee said in April that he felt like "doing a press release saying the first winner of Olympic gold in 2012 is G4S. It feels like there's a massive profit margin here." [11]

G4S is also responsible for running three immigration detention centres in the UK - Tinsley House and Brook House, both located at Gatwick airport, and Cedars, near Crawley in Sussex, described by the government as "secure pre-departure accommodation" for families. [12] A contract to provide housing for asylum seekers in Yorkshire was also recently awarded to the company and has generated fierce opposition in the region. [13]

Six UK prisons are operated by the firm in which campaigners claim "400 prisoners are hired for 40 hours a week for as little as £2 a day." The company also holds three contracts for the government's controversial Work Programme, referred to by its critics as workfare. [14]

Perhaps most controversially, the company was recently awarded a £200 million contract by Lincolnshire Police Authority ostensibly for designing, building and running a police station. 540 civilian employees will be transferred from Lincolnshire Police to G4S under the plan. [15]

It also seems that the role of G4S in policing is likely to go beyond 'back office' functions with the firm advertising vacancies for, amongst other things, Investigative Assistants, Major Crime Investigators and intelligence analysts. [16]

The company's 2011 annual report notes that "one of the most significant opportunities for outsourcing is in the UK, where the pipeline for further government outsourcing remains strong, particularly in areas such as prisons, police, health and the Department for Work and Pensions." [17]

Shiar Youssef of Corporate Watch, which recently published an extensive report on G4S, [18] said that the firm "has maneuvered itself into a pole position to profit from the coalition government's plans to destroy public services through slashing workers' pay and sacrificing the quality of services, as well as by hiring establishment figures like former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Paul Condon as board members. Poorer services, less accountability, more profits."

'Alternative Report and Accounts 2012'
[2] 'G4S Corporate Credit Downgraded to 'BB/B' On Loss of High Profile Public Contracts'
'Fake downgrade action against G4S', Indymedia UK, 7 June 2012
[4] 'TEXT-S&PBUlletin: rating and outlook G4S plc unchanged', Reuters, 6 June 2012
[5] Matt Scuffham, 'G4S bid of ISS scuppered by shareholder backlash', Reuters, 1 November 2011
[6] Trevor Hemmings, 'Statewatch Analysis: UK: The death of Jimmy Mubenga: "Securing your world" through "privatised manslaughter"', March 2011
[7] Paul Lewis and Matthew Taylor, 'Jimmy Mubenga death: prosecutor weighs up whether to charge G4S security guards', The Guardian, 16 March 2012
[8] 'Briefing: The detention and imprisonment of Palestinians in oPt/Israel', IRIN News, 4 June 2012
[9] Clare Sambrook, 'Duty of Care: beyond the case of Mr Ward, cooked to death by gigantic outsourcer G4S', openDemocracy, 8 June 2011
[10] Paul Kelso, 'London 2012 Olympics: G4S blame £283 million security costs on Government and Locog', The Daily Telegraph, 24 May 2012
[11] Rajeev Syal, 'Jeremy Hunt's top civil servant refuses to back him over BSkyB', The Guardian, 26 April 2012
[12] 'Ending the detention of children for immigration purposes? New "pre-departure accomodation centre" for families almost ready to open', Statewatch News Online, 23 August 2011
[13] 'Campaign Briefing: Asylum Seekers to be housed by prison guards', SYMAAG, 24 January 2012; No to G4S

[14] 'The facts', Boycott Workfare
[15] 'Private security firm G4S to run Lincolnshire police station', BBC News, 22 February 2012
[16] G4S, 'G4S Policing Solutions'; Clare Sambrook, 'Who should investigate murder - the police, or a private security company?', openDemocracy, 13 April 2012
[17] G4S, 'Annual Report and Accounts 2011'
[18] Corporate Watch, 'Many reasons to stop G4S', 21 May 2012

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