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Africans Want Olympic Ban On Securicor

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Article in today's Independent:

African unions call for Olympics to ban 'racist' security firm

By Kim Sengupta

Published: 31 May 2007

A British security company which is also the largest multinational employer in Africa has been accused of paying staff in the continent "poverty" wages and subjecting them to racism.

Union leaders from several African countries are to meet London mayor, Ken Livingstone, this week to complain about the actions of Group 4 Securicor (G4S) which is said to be considering bidding for the contract to provide security for 2012 Olympics.

A new report, prepared by the charity War on Want, claims that some of the company's black employees in South Africa have been forced to use different toilets to their white employees and that white supervisors have referred to them as "kaffirs" and "monkeys".

The dossier goes on to claim that G4S pay so little to workers in Malawi - about £13 a month - that their daily meal consists of just bread and they live at homes without power or running water. G4S guards in Mozambique receive £31 a month. But this is said to represent "just half a living wage" in their country.

The report states: "While G4S turnover last year exceeded £4bn, cheap labour costs help make its African profit margins 40 per cent higher than in Europe and North America."

Last year G4S won security contracts for the 2006 World Cup. War on Want trades union officer Jackie Simpkins said: "The poor wages and conditions suffered by G4S African workers beggar belief. We call on Mr Livingstone to make decent treatment for all workers a condition for any company winning a 2012 Olympics security contract. The British government must introduce binding regulations over UK firms' behaviour towards its overseas workers."

G4S strongly denied the accusations. It said all allegations of racism are thoroughly investigated and insisted it paid its African workers far higher than the minimum wage in respective countries.

But the allegations made in the report are damning nonetheless. In Pretoria the company is alleged to have given white guards keys to the company toilet while their black colleagues had to use a nearby mall. At Johannesburg airport white managers were accused of referring to black guards as "kaffirs" and "monkeys". Randall Howard, general secretary of SATAWU, a union representing security workers described G4S as a " company which has not transformed".

One G4S employee in Malawi, Shadreck Makwinja, said he had worked for the past 12 months without a day off. The last day he had off was to attend a funeral. He said his employers paid him $3.52 a month in housing allowance, but the rent on his hut was $6.23. His wife Magret said "The life we undergo is very pathetic. What happens is that when my husband goes to work I have to make sure that I can find piecemeal jobs just to help my husband find some maize and some flour we can use to cook with."

A spokesman for G4S said yesterday: "We do not condone racism in any way and all allegations are thoroughly investigated. The accusations of using racist insults at Johannesburg have yet to be substantiated. If it is, then action will be taken.

"The allegations about the use of separate toilets arose from the fact that work was being done to them and people had to use toilets off site. As far as I am aware there was one toilet was kept aside for female staff and that had lock and keys.

"In Malawi our workers have had 20 per cent pay rises for the last four years, and in Mozambique we pay one-and-half times the national minimum wage."


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