G4S Olympics shambles reveals the spread of privatisation


By a Newsnet reporter

As the privatised security plans for the London Olympics descend into a fiasco, the UK Government is reportedly preparing to deploy 2000 extra troops in order to ensure security cover at the Games, which are due to start in less than two weeks. 

By a Newsnet reporter

As the privatised security plans for the London Olympics descend into a fiasco, the UK Government is reportedly preparing to deploy 2000 extra troops in order to ensure security cover at the Games, which are due to start in less than two weeks. 

The news came as Nick Buckles, chief executive of G4S, the company awarded the security contract for the Games, faced a grilling before the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee yesterday.

Mr Buckles was forced to agree with MPs’ description of G4S’s role in the affair as “a humiliating shambles” and admitted that less than half of the staff promised by the company were actually in place.  Mr Buckles said that only 5,500 security staff were ready to be deployed, but that he hoped that by the time the Games began that number would increase to 7,000.

Buckles’ appearance came as it came to light that many G4S staff had simply failed to show up for work at Olympic venues on Tuesday.  Speaking to the BBC, one G4S manager said that the company’s performance had been “an embarrassment”, as scores of trained staff complained that the company had given them no information about their work shifts.

The company has now revised its target of 10,000 trained staff down to 7,000, this number has been compounded by the news that the firm were also contracted to provide 3000 additional student staff which will not now be the case.  However the Home Office is concerned that G4S may not be able to meet even this lower target, and so is making plans to bring in extra troops to cover a 6,400 shortfall.  The UK Government is already deploying 17,000 service personnel, the new plans would bring the total to over 19,000.

The Home Office has yet to make a formal request to the MoD for extra personnel, but a senior MoD figure, speaking to the Financial Times, said:  

“We’re internally planning for the possibility that we may have to deploy those extra numbers.  It’s a contingency because we always plan ahead.  We assume this won’t be needed but if it is, we’re ready.”

Whitehall sources indicated that the Home Office would have to come to a decision on the extra security staff by Thursday.

In March 2011 it was announced that G4S was awarded £284 million in contracts to provide security staff for the Games.  This sum includes £57 million in “management fees”. 

Mr Buckles agreed that G4S would pay the costs for extra military and policing, but insisted to the committee that G4S would still claim the full £57 million, despite its failure to comply fully with the terms of its contract and supply the correct number of fully trained guards, saying that G4S still had to pay for managers who have been “on the ground for two years”.

G4S is a controversial company.  With 657,000 employees and operations in 125 countries, it had an annual revenue last year of £7.5 billion and made a profit of £198 million pounds.  A favourite of the British Government for security contracts, 27% of the company’s business worldwide comes from government contracts.  

G4S runs detention centres and prisons for the UK Government, and also provides prison transport services and security at major airports.  In 2010 the company came under heavy criticism for the death of Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga.  Mr Mubenga died on a departing BA flight at Heathrow Airport after being heavily restrained and held down by three G4S-guards.  

In March 2012, the Scottish Government renewed a seven year contract with G4S to transport prisoners in Scotland.  The contract had originally been awarded by the previous Labour/Lib Dem administration.

G4S has been heavily criticised for cost-cutting, and for employing poorly trained and badly supported staff on low wages who are incapable of dealing with the stressful and sometimes dangerous situations their work entails.  In February 2011, the Guardian newspaper reported that G4S guards had been repeatedly warned about the use of potentially lethal force on detainees and asylum seekers.

Between 2008 to 2011, there were 1,490 complaints by detainees about their treatment by G4S staff, 305 of which were fully or partially substantiated.

G4S is reportedly tendering for police services in England which are being outsourced by the UK Government.  Dave Taylor-Smith, head of G4S in the UK and Africa, told the Guardian just last month that within 5 years private companies will be running large parts of the UK’s police service. 

G4S is currently bidding for £1.5 billion contracts with West Midlands and Surrey police forces to take over services such as guarding cells in police stations and IT work.  Mr Taylor-Smith said that he expected that in the near future private companies would also be investigating crimes and dealing with intelligence information.

Former Labour Home Secretary John Reid, Lord Reid of Cardowan or Dr Reid as he prefers to be known, has been on the payroll of the company since 2009.  Mr Reid, now a G4S Director, reportedly earns over £50,000 annually for his part-time job.  Shortly after Mr Reid joined the company, the then Labour Government under Gordon Brown awarded G4S a multi-million pound four year contract to supply security guards for MoD sites.

Mr Reid is one of many former Labour government ministers who now enjoy lucrative positions within companies which bid for multi-million pound contracts in areas once covered by the former ministers were in power.


Related story: http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/component/content/article/7-politics/5405-former-labour-minister-walked-through-revolving-door-to-olympic-shambles-firm-g4s