African staff attack UK firm over racism and poverty pay

29 May 2007 - 3:35pm
Press release

African workers today warn London mayor Ken Livingstone over a British company's potential bid to handle security at the 2012 Olympics amid claims that its staff face poverty wages and racist treatment by their bosses.

Black employees of Group 4 Securicor allege their white managers at the US embassy in the South African capital Pretoria force them to use separate toilets while white guards are given keys to the company toilet. And black G4S guards at Johannesburg airport complain that white supervisors call them 'kaffirs' and 'monkeys', according to a new report from a fact-finding delegation to Southern Africa including the anti-poverty charity War on Want and international trade unions.

The report - Who Protects the Guards? - is launched to coincide with the firm's annual general meeting today (31 May) in London. Group 4 Securicor is the largest employer listed on the London Stock Exchange and the world's biggest employer in the security sector, with 470,000 staff in over 100 countries.

The report reveals that G4S pays workers so little in Malawi that their daily meals consist of only bread, they live in homes without electricity or running water and cannot afford to meet their children's school or medical fees. They earn on average £13 a month - only a quarter of a living wage. The firm's dog handlers in Malawi frequently work 18-24 hour shifts without any breaks and are disciplined for eating on duty. Supervisors often bring food for the dog, but nothing for the guards. And though G4S guards in Mozambique receive on average £31 a month, this represents just half a living wage in their country.

War on Want trade unions 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 regulation over UK firms' behaviour towards its overseas workers."

In Malawi and Mozambique G4S guards protest that they have not received the overtime pay owed to them. In Malawi guards work 12 hours a day at least six days a week, often seven. But after staff exceed their eight-hour day, G4S pays them for only half of the extra hours. Workers claim the company has not fully complied with a Mozambique arbitration panel which ruled that staff were not properly compensated for overtime. The firm itself has admitted that no overtime was paid in Mozambique between 1994 and 2005.

Mozambique employment minister, Helena Taipo, whose order to the company to pay the overtime was ignored, says: "G4S doesn't respect Mozambique's laws."

And while G4S turnover last year exceeded £4 billion, cheap labour costs help make its African profit margins 40 per cent higher than in Europe and North America.

Last year the company won security contracts for the 2006 World Cup football tournament in Germany. Campaigners have told Mr Livingstone that in order for G4S to win the lucrative security contracts at the 2012 Olympics, estimated to be worth around £500m, the company must ensure decent treatment for all its workers around the globe. A similar message has gone to the South African government over the World Cup football tournament there in 2010.

The report follows a fact-finding mission to South Africa, Malawi and Mozambique by an international UNI Property Services delegation which included UK representatives from War on Want and the Transport and General Workers' Union.



Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 (+44) (0)7983 550728


  • The PDF report can be downloaded here.
  • Patrick Finyamowa, a G4S guard in Malawi, and Macdonald Chuma, assistant secretary of the Malawi-based Textile and Garment Workers' Union, which represents the company's workers, will visit Britain from 29 May to 1 June. Both will be available for interview. Thieves attacked Patrick to steal a client's car battery. But G4S made him reimburse the client. His wage is so low that he needed two years to pay.
  • Patrick and Macdonald, with delegation members, will attend a reception organised by the Transport and General Workers' Union and War on Want at 6 pm UK time on Wednesday 30 May at the union's headquarters, Transport House, 128 Theobalds Road, Holborn, London WC1X 8TN.
  • The G4S annual meeting will take place at 2.00 pm UK time on Thursday 31 May at Ironmongers' Hall, Barbican, London EC2Y 8AA.
  • More than 82,000 employees work for G4S in 18 African countries. The firm is growing in Africa and bought two security companies this year in South Africa and Mozambique. Around the world, G4S employs over 470,000 workers in 104 countries.
  • Other delegates on the fact-finding mission were from the International Centre for Trade Union Rights, the London School of Economics, the German union Ver.di, the Swedish Transport Workers' Union, the Geneva-based UNI Property Services Global Union, UNI Africa, the Washington-based Service Employees International Union, and the International Commission for Labor Rights, based in New York.



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The right to be paid a living wage is a basic entitlement of all working people the world over, whether they work in the public or private sectors, in the global South or North.

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