Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Is there nothing G4S can do that will stop it getting government contracts?

Just two years after its Olympics screw-up, the firm has been let back into the fold, writes Tom Walker

April 30, 2014
3 min read

G4SG4S, the giant private security contractor, is perhaps best known for making a total hash of the London 2012 Olympics, when its staff simply failed to turn up. It is also currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging after claiming it had electronically tagged people who turned out to be dead. In 2010, Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained by G4S guards during a deportation. G4S-run private prisons, meanwhile, were reported this week to be in chaos.

This is just a brief glimpse of the firm’s long record of making megaprofits for grim failure across the world. And yet, and yet. G4S has just won a collection of contracts to deliver the £300 million ‘Help to Work’ scheme, the Tories’ latest punitive programme for unemployed people. The security firm will be in charge of enforcing ‘community work placements’ – in other words, unpaid workfare.

Under the headline ‘G4S back in favour at Whitehall’, the Financial Times reports that the government has lifted a ban on the firm bidding for public sector work, essentially allowing G4S back into the fold. The reasoning given is that there just aren’t enough other bidders to give the contracts to – and the other big players, Serco, Atos and Capita, all have awful track records too.

This is the end result of privatisation: a multi-billion pound oligopoly of incompetence. And all the main political parties are equally dependent on the privateers – who can forget that, just months after the Olympics, the Labour Party employed G4S to do the security at its own party conference?

Of course, G4S is far from the only problem with ‘Help to Work’. Aimed at the 200,000 people who have been on the Tories’ failed Work Programme for two years, the scheme forces them to either work for free or sign on at the jobcentre every day. Missing a day will get them sanctioned and their benefits suspended or stopped altogether. This is a scheme clearly designed not to ‘help people into work’, but to push them off the unemployment benefits they are entitled to.

Awarding the contract to G4S reinforces the impression that this new scheme will be even worse than workfare as we know it, more resembling the court-ordered punishment version of ‘community service’. As with Atos, however, the involvement of G4S offers a weak point when we are taking aim at the whole apparatus of stigmatisation that is replacing the social safety net.


Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.

Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu

Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns

Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism

Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists

Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win

The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution

Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.

‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition

#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny

Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke