The tentacles of security multinational G4S
The international security company G4S offers everything you may think off. But it wants more. The monster appears to be untamable. “The private security sector is trying to break into sectors that used to be operated only by the state or non-profit organisations.”
Everywhere cameras and sensors hang around this highly secured complex in a desolate industrial area. Nobody comes in here just like that. Also the presenter of the popular children’s TV program WillemWever. He is joined today by Nina, a girl who sent a burning question to the program.
For the answer, she must be here, in a very secret location, where she first walks through four heavily guarded gates. Ports that are guarded by “strict men that you should not argue with”, the presenter says. Nina wants to know how a money transport works. “I often see those cars driving through the village.” …
G4S runs prisons in Great Britain, guards immigration detention centers in Australia, surveys and searches for troublesome youth in Almere, protects nuclear power stations everywhere, protects ports and airports, works in conflict areas such as Afghanistan and puts on your grandmother’s compression stockings in the municipality of Hollands Kroon.
At least, G4S really wanted the latter. However, a tender for the care tasks in this North Holland municipality failed miserably. But this multinational, which has a gigantic turnover of 8.5 billion euros worldwide, is chessing on many boards. With about 540,000 employees, G4S is the largest private employer in the world after the American supermarket chain Walmart and the Chinese electronics group Foxconn. As the International Business Times described, the corporation is rightfully “the largest company you’ve never heard of”.
Eg, the political directors of Hollands Kroon had never heard of G4S Zorg until the company rattled at the gates of the town hall. It was 2016 and the Rutte II cabinet had just decentralized the care tasks – from now on municipalities had to arrange and outsource everything themselves. G4S enthusiastically presented itself as a party that could take good care of the elderly in Hollands Kroon. It also wanted to take care of things like youth care. A municipal advisory council had its doubts: “G4S is hardly active in the Netherlands in the field of care and welfare. And a solid, proven experience in the Dutch healthcare situation seems to us to be an important requirement. ”
However, the international security company claimed to have experience in elderly and youth care. G4S has long had contracts with municipalities in Friesland, Groningen and Flevoland. Jan Eichhorn, chairman of the group of the GroenLinks party in Hollands Kroon local council, made inquiries with his colleagues in those municipalities. “None of them had found G4S among the contacted companies. The claim of G4S is completely wrong.”
Nevertheless, the multinational came out as the cheapest during the tender. G4S, however, could not explain how it could achieve those wonderful rates in combination with good care. The term was extended a few times so that G4S could put everything neatly on paper. But when the plan of approach was finally received, it did not meet the quality requirements. That was the reason for Hollands Kroon, the municipality now says, not to do business with this giant at the last minute. …
Despite the lost tender, G4S is already in healthcare via an opaque construction, according to research by De Groene Amsterdammer. G4S has been supplying people in healthcare and welfare since 2012 through its own employment agency Inzetbaar BV. At the moment, the company is looking for a mental health psychologist, a forensic therapeutic employee in a youth prison and a psychiatric nurse. Inzetbaar describes itself as a “saving angel” in the sector, because in addition to healthcare personnel, the company also immediately provides security guards “to all our customers”. And let parent company G4S supply these security guards. …
With this, G4S immediately tapped into a market for its own security guards. According to Paul Ponsaers, emeritus professor of criminology at Ghent University, it is a proven method that is also used in Belgium. In addition to forensic psychiatric centers, G4S also runs winter shelters for the homeless. “The private security sector is trying to break into sectors that used to be operated only by the state or non-profit organisations,” he said recently in the Belgian weekly Knack.
Corporations are now also bidding on these tasks – the larger they are, the cheaper they can offer them. “Those companies don’t have to make a profit there right away. They are mainly trying to occupy that territory and organize it so that no one else can take it over, “said Ponsaers. Look at companies such as Uber, Amazon and Alibaba, who are trying to become the world market leader (or rather: world monopolist) with dump prices. Later, prices will rise. …
The question is also what quality these large companies provide. Because G4S certainly did not just bluff itself to an assignment in Hollands Kroon. The company, it boasted in Great Britain, was able to supply as many as 100,000 security guards for the London Olympics in 2012, even though 10,400 were needed. But when push came to shove, it did not even get seven thousand security guards. The British government suddenly had to deploy the army, removing men and women from the mission in Afghanistan.
Our Belgian colleagues at Knack recently discovered another example of the bluff surrounding the tender of two so-called transition houses, where ex-prisoners can prepare for a good return to society. The government prepared a 910 thousand euro subsidy for two of these transition houses. Thirteen organizations (mainly non-profit) were candidates, but the multinational G4S came out – to the surprise of many – as the best.
An important argument was the collaboration with the Dutch Exodus foundation, which has been running ten of these houses since 1995 and enjoys a reliable reputation due to good recidivism figures. But our colleagues at Knack discovered that all the staff of these transition houses are on the payroll of G4S. In addition, Exodus director Jan van Gils knew nothing about it four months after the official grant award. “That decision has not yet been taken. That is still with the Belgian ministry. “He had to hear from journalists, while all preparations for the opening of the second (including “his”) transition house had already been started.
G4S is also a company with a certain reputation. The poignant documentary Prison for Profit was recently released, which tells about Mangaung prison. This first privately run correctional facility in South Africa was opened in 2001. Operator G4S promised paradise. The documentary shows leaked surveillance videos of torture in prison, former prisoners and prisoners tell about it. In addition, journalist Ruth Hopkins, who researched Mangaung for years, discovered that G4S was not cheaper for taxpayers at all.
In recent years, more and more large companies such as G4S have taken over government tasks in Great Britain. They collect trash, sweep streets, secure ministries and other government buildings, carry out airport checks, train unemployed people, run asylum seekers’ centers and manage prisons. They make profits of hundreds of millions of euros, and voluntary organizations and social enterprises can no longer compete with them.
The British government intervened in 2018 with Her Majesty’s Prison Birmingham. The male prison staff had completely lost control. Inspections revealed that the wings were full of vomit, blood, cockroaches and rat droppings. The detainees were on drugs en masse, ended up in fights or dared not to come out of the cell for fear of all intimidation. The prison was run by G4S. A year earlier, the BBC broadcast a documentary about Northumberland prison, where alarm systems were not working and drugs were being used extensively. The prison was run by Sodexo, the French company that mainly operates canteens in offices in the Netherlands.
Despite the scandals, the British government continues to work with commercial parties. Bloomberg recently calculated that nearly 20 percent of the 82,000 British prisoners are housed by G4S, Serco and Sodexo.
G4S did manage to win an ankle band contract in 2014 under the guise of public-private partnerships. During the period when the Netherlands awarded G4S the contract, the company was under fire in Great Britain for providing this service. The company charged the government anklets for inmates who had died long and wide. G4S settled with the British government for £ 109 million (€ 125 million).
That is by no means a big deal for this many-headed monster, which last year turned over 8.5 billion euros in ninety countries with approximately six hundred subsidiaries.
G4S proudly reports that it protects the airport in Baghdad … Iraq, Afghanistan or Congo – the multinational is fully active in conflict areas. Uncertainty, terrorism, geopolitical shifts and continued instability in the Middle East create risks as well as opportunities for the security industry, the annual report said.
European G4S leader Graham Levinsohn said at a conference in Rome last fall: “We already have millions of cameras hanging all of which collect massive amounts of data.” G4S and the other companies are holding gold, “because those cameras can help us track trends in to map and predict safety needs’.
The Member of Parliament Kees Verhoeven (D66) is questioning this. According to him, the European privacy law (avg) is fairly simple and clear. “You have to get permission from people before you can use and process their data. There is regular discussion about whether this permission has been asked, and it is almost never the case. “He mentions companies such as Facebook and Instagram. They force people to accept all kinds of “shadowy” conditions, otherwise you will not be on the platform. “Later they can then say that you clicked on agreement and thus gave permission.”
You usually don’t even know about G4S that they capture images with cameras. The company is experimenting not only with the average camera, but now also with the use of drones to ‘patrol’, eg, over port areas or large events. …
G4S has been asked to respond several times, but the corporation has not answered our questions.