By Tom Walker
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2312

G4S Olympics fiasco is just the latest in a string of scandals

This article is over 9 years, 5 months old
The failure of security firm G4S to find enough staff to cover the Olympics is the latest in its long history of scandals and privatisation.
Issue 2312

The failure of security firm G4S to find enough staff to cover the Olympics is the latest in its long history of scandals and privatisation.

G4S runs three immigration detention centres, including child detention. It is bidding to take on policing contracts. It also runs six prisons. When it took over Birmingham prison last year, it promptly lost the keys.

In its prisons, G4S pays inmates £2 a day to work for other companies. It is also contracted to carry out deportations.

That’s how the firm became involved in the death of Jimmy Mubenga. Jimmy died in 2010 as three G4S private security guards were forcibly deporting him to Angola from Heathrow airport.

Jimmy cried out, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” and “They are going to kill me”, for about ten minutes before he passed out.

He appeared to have died of asphyxiation. The three guards were arrested. But this week it was announced that they would not be charged.

As Damis Mbuyi told Socialist Worker at a vigil for Jimmy, “If Jimmy was English perhaps someone would have been punished. But he is African so nobody minds.”

He’s not the only one. In Australia four years ago an Aboriginal elder known as Mr Ward cooked to death in the back of a G4S prison van. He died of heat stroke while being transported across the desert. There was no air conditioning in the back of the van.

The study “Outsourcing Abuse”, looked at 300 alleged assaults on asylum detainees in Britain. It found that G4S was involved in more cases than any other firm by far.


Last year 773 detainees at G4S-run immigration removal centres made complaints about the firm. There were 48 complaints of assault.

The government’s chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, found that G4S guards also used “extremely offensive racist language” during forced deportations from Britain.

One manager told inspectors that they expected disruption because “Jamaican nationals are like that”, while others spoke of Africans being “often violent”. They also used derogatory words for Travellers.

Hardwick added that G4S used “unnecessary” force in its restraint techniques, including handcuffing those who appeared upset or walked too slowly. And the firm did not allow detainees to close the door when they went to the toilet.

The report went on to criticise G4S’s uniform of “quasi combat-style clothing” with some outfits bearing the words “use of force instructor”.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that G4S is part of the occupation of Afghanistan. It has a £23 million contract to guard the British embassy in Kabul, and to provide “mobile security services” to British government employees as they move around the country.

In fact the firm has roles like this around the world. G4S Israel, for example, provides security for Israel’s “apartheid wall”.

The company has its own theme song, which goes “G4S! Protecting the world, G4S! So dreams can unfurl.” The truth is that G4S is a global nightmare.

Profit drive caused chaos

G4S is the largest private security firm in the world—and the world’s third largest private sector employer, after Wal-Mart and computer manufacturing firm Foxconn. It was formed by a merger of Group 4 and Securicor.

With more than 650,000 staff worldwide, it does the dirty work for states and governments. The company has bought up 70 other firms along the way.

Despite the global financial crisis, G4S has seen its profits double since 2005. It made £7.5 billion in 2011. But G4S’ latest scheme has been scuppered by its bosses’ toxic blend of callousness, incompetence and greed.

The firm’s master plan was to take on 700 managers on temporary contracts to run its £284 million Olympics operation on the cheap. Then it would sack everyone once they were finished.

Chief executive Nick Buckles said that “the legacy costs of having a workforce laying idle after the Olympics almost does away with the benefits of doing it”. This is how it managed to fall 3,500 people short.

The firm wants to double its government contracts by 2015. After sending in the troops this week you’d hope even the Tories will be reluctant.

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance