G4S sense easy profits to be had, and are evidently hungry for a sizable share of Leicestershire’s policing services. This follows on from their lucrative starter, which saw them receive a 10-year, £200 million contract, to engorge themselves at the expense of Lincolnshire’s police force.
Unison branch secretary Chris Harrahan is totally correct in saying that G4S only “exist to make a profit for their shareholders.” Adding, “They won’t be accountable or transparent and once we go down this line [with our police force], it will be too late to backtrack” (November 5, Leicester Mercury).
Such union concerns are well informed. One of the few investigative reports into the the problems accompanying G4S’s much-touted improvements in Lincolnshire was carried out in late 2014 by the reporters at the Financial Times (see “G4S: the inside story“) .
Unfortunately four Leicestershire custody suites are already run by G4S, and drawing upon research into the Lincolnshire example, the Financial Times highlighted how packed suites are staffed by just two people. Apparently staff have a emergency button to “contact the nearest police station. But that assumes officers are there to heed the alarm. Often, they are out on a call.”
Moreover once jobs have been transferred from the public sector to G4S, attacks on pay begin in earnest, and in Lincolnshire “many new staff” are “paid less than existing workers for doing the same job.” For example, current G4S staff in custody suites earn about £26,000 a year: “Replacement jobs are being advertised at a rate that is £7,000 lower”!
This provides but one important reason why Unison have concerns for their members. It also explains why the transfer of most of Lincolnshire police force to G4S was “undertaken behind closed doors and the public was not consulted at any stage,” a point drawn out in the authoritative Solicitors Journal.
Yet the logic of necessary savings (rather cuts) follows from the Government’s own faulty logic that there is no money for well-funded public services. What they mean is that they have no intention of making the super-rich pay the tax they owe the rest of us so we can fund our services properly.
Whatever next: perhaps our fire services will be handed over to the private sector too. Oh, wait a minute, that has already happened, as with little fanfare, in March 2013 Capita Group became the proud new owners of a world-class training centre, the Fire Service College.
Speaking out against these changes at the time, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said “The vultures are circling because they smell profit.”
“We have seen how the public lose out in other privatisations, such as rail,” Wrack explained, “but for emergency services it is even more grotesque as we are there to save lives and property.”
A spokesman for the Fire Officers Association duly noted the likely attacks on pay and conditions to follow for their fire fighters, adding that it would “prove to be the stepping stone towards the eventual privatisation of an essential emergency service.”
That is why we need to shout a loud and resounding collective NO to all corporations seeking to prey upon any of our serially-underfunded public services!
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on November 5, 2015.