Why Labour should boycott G4S as a provider of security to its conference
G4S is mired in scandal, but the company will provide security at Labour Party conference in September. Stop G4S campaigners Greg Dropkin and John Nicholson ask trade unionists and party members to demand Labour withhold contracts until, at least, the company pulls out of Israeli prisons and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
During the recent UNITE Policy Conference in Liverpool, campaigners received confirmation that Labour intend to use G4S for security at Conference, as in Brighton last year and Manchester in 2012. The company’s involvement in fraud and human rights abuse is a matter of public record, sketched below. G4S is also a prime contractor for public services, with privatisation the real agenda behind the Coalition’s austerity programme. Ignoring the danger signals is an unforced error, and flies in the face of policy commitments from unions supporting Labour.
Two years ago, at an RMT fringe meeting on renationalisation of the railways, Maria Eagle MP told John Nicholson that Labour continued to use G4S for security at its annual conference because they’re “very good”. That opinion was not credible in 2012, and would be incredible now. Over the past year:
- G4S remains under criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for receiving public funds for tagging dead people.
- In July 2013 the Group 4 Training officer who fatally restrained Gareth Myatt, a 40 kg boy, was promoted to Health and Safety Manager G4S Children’s Services.
- In October 2013 a G4S guard was jailed for life in Scotland formurdering a conference delegate.
- In November 2013 the South African Government took over from G4S after they lost control of Mangaung prison where reports of human rights violations including electric shocks and forced injections of psychiatric drugs became an international scandal.
- In January 2014 a Prison Officer reported that the ‘disturbance’ at G4S Oakwood Prison was a ‘full scale riot’. Oakwood prisoners find it easier to get drugs than soap.
- In February 2014 the Australian Government removed the contract for the incarceration of asylum seekers and refugees in Manus Island after a riot which resulted in the death of Reza Berati. According to the Amnesty International report published in Australia in May 2014, G4S guards were implicated in physical abuse of detainees.
- Again in February 2014 following tireless campaigning, the National Audit Office published a scathing report exposing how G4S has provided filthy and unfit housing for people awaiting outcomes of asylum claims or appeals and ensured the company will be fined.
- In March 2014 three G4S guards were charged with manslaughter over their role in the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan man who was unlawfully killed while being ‘restrained’ during a deportation run by G4S.
- In May 2014 a BBC Scotland investigation revealed that a guard who murdered two colleagues in Iraq had not been properly vetted by G4S, who had been warned of the danger prior to his deployment to Iraq.
Then there’s the ongoing scandal of G4S complicity with Israel’s defiance of the 4th Geneva Convention, including the torture of Palestinian prisoners, some of whom are children. G4S provide security services to businesses in the illegal Israeli settlements and checkpoints along the Apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank. The settlements and Wall breach the 4th Geneva Convention. The company also provides electronic security systems for Ofer prison in the West Bank, and in prisons within Israel. Palestinians including children, have been arrested in the West Bank and Gaza and transferred to these prisons in further breach of the 4th Geneva Convention. Torture is documented within facilities supplied by G4S. For details see the Palestine section of the Briefing for Trade Unionists.
UNITE’s Policy Conference adopted a composite resolution which named G4S, amongst others, as appropriate targets for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions in solidarity with Palestine. UNISON policy (2013) pledges the union to “develop guidance for branches on campaigns to stop public service contracts being awarded to companies which are complicit in Israeli violations of international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention, for instance by contracts which service the illegal settlements, construct the Apartheid Wall or provide security in prisons holding Palestinians illegally transferred from the Occupied Territories.”
At the recent G4S AGM, the company announced it intends to exit its Israeli prison contracts when they expire in 2017. That’s a promise under pressure. Until it actually happens, there is no reason for Labour to reward G4S with further contracts. There are other companies. The BBC recently awarded security guarding at all its UK sites to a rival firm.
Why does Labour remain committed to G4S? They’ve known each other for a while. During the Inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga, the Coroner was appalled to discover that the Home Office had sanctioned the use of unaccredited guards to remove detainees. The senior Detainee Custody Officer in the Mubenga case was not accredited and therefore acting illegally. The decision to dispense with accreditation in the interests of speed was taken in June 2006 soon after John Reid was appointed Home Secretary. In 2008 he was a Group Consultant for G4S and in 2010 became G4S Director Regional Management (UK and Ireland Limited), resigning on 1 April 2013 just before the Inquest.
Ending the relationship is long overdue.
With the backing of the UNITE National Executive, Stop G4S produced a Briefing for Trade Unionists with details of the company’s activities in UK prisons, asylum housing, welfare, the death of Jimmy Mubenga, Palestine, South Africa… It is available here: www.stopg4s.net/node/116
For more information, see www.stopg4s.net