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Labour | Economy - Development | Society

South Africa's biggest security firm under fire

afrol News, 22 December - South Africa's biggest security firm is at daggers end of trade unionists across the globe. Group 4 Securicor is a likely bidder to provide security for the 2010 World Cup games in South Africa.

At a recent trade union forum in Luxembourg, trade unionists discussed how to institute reforms at the world's largest private security provider - Group 4. The company is frequently seen as a leading opponent to provide better working conditions and payment for security workers.

With 400,000 employees, Group 4 Securicor is the largest private security employer in the world, which operates in 104 countries.

"G4S doesn't always respect workers' fundamental rights or even the laws of the country where it operates," said Jackson Simon, security organiser for SATAWU, a South African trade union attending the Luxembourg syndicalist gathering. "In an industry characterised by poor working conditions, low wages and rampant casualisation, Group 4 has earned a reputation here in South Africa as one of the worst employers," Mr Simon said.

African trade unionists punched Group 4 Securicor for establishing a discernable pattern of behaviour, disregarding the home country's labour laws, refusing to honour court decisions, leading aggressive battles against union campaigns for improvements and refusing to recognise unions.

The firm is also accused of similar crimes throughout Africa, including Mozambique, Malawi, Uganda, Congo and Kenya. In fact, Mozambique's Minister for Labour was forced to revoke the permit of the Managing Director of Group 4, Jon Mortimer, after he had refused to obey the Labour Ministry's order to make redundancy payments to about 250 laid-off security guards.

In Malawi, the company was taken to court for failing to pay overtime to officers. While the court ruled in favour of the workers who brought the suit, Group 4 refused to respect the court decision. Workers have appealed to Malawi's Minister of Labour to intervene.

In the United States, the firm is accused of undermining attempts by the US civil rights community and labour unions to improve conditions in the industry that is increasingly dominated by Afro-American workers.

US Organisations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) - the organisation founded by Martin Luther King Jr - and members of the Congressional Black Caucus have been throwing their weight behind security workers.

The company is also said to be the subject of an OECD complaint brought by UNI Global Union with the British government. The complaint charges the company with violating the OECD guidelines on sustainable development and workers' right to organise into unions.

Unionists have now turned to the Chief Executive Officer of the World Cup Organising Committee in South Africa, Danny Jordan, by writing to him, asking him to regulate Group 4.

"We ask that you make clear to G4S that the company will only be eligible to provide security services at the World Cup if it changes course and treats workers and their representatives around the world with respect," read the protest letter.

Security firms are widely used in South Africa - even by the middle class - to protect private homes and companied against what is perceived as a massive crime rate. According to signs normally seen in South African gardens, security guards appear at no warning and shoot trespassers before asking.

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