G4S and UCT spat over security guards
G4S is the world’s largest international security firm. It has a big presence in South Africa. Employee relations are strained at the University of Cape Town following the transfer of three G4S security guards to other G4S sites in Cape Town in September.
Following the transfer, the university’s G4S guards marched to demand the return of their colleagues.They argued that the transfer means a drop in wages for their former colleagues, as well as a loss of benefits which UCT workers have been able to secure over time.The transfer can also mean a change of working hours, travel time and of safety levels for the workers themselves.
The workers’ representative committee claims that the guards were transferred as a form of punishment for their complaints, and to reduce the threat to G4S. The transferred security guards were all members of the G4S workers’ representative committee at UCT and participated in the Joint Shop Stewards’ Council and other workers’ groups. According to the UCT Left Students Forum, they were involved in bringing allegations of racism and misconduct against G4S supervisors and managers. They also raised concerns about work conditions, including the need for better protective clothing and shelter from adverse weather conditions.
G4S has denied the allegations made by UCT Left Students Forum that the company uses transfers as a means of intimidation.
UCT officials met with G4S on 1 October following the march. UCT went through the code of conduct that the university requires contractors to comply with, to which G4S pledged their full support. The results of this meeting were then reported to the G4S UCT Working Committee. A follow-up meeting is being arranged where UCT officials will engage directly with the G4S workers who were involved in this incident. UCT has said it would investigate the issue further, and would instruct G4S to return the transferred workers.
In response to request for comment, G4S wrote, “The management of G4S notes with concern the unsubstantiated allegations made against the company. However, given that the matter is subject to an on-going investigation, we reserve our right to comment fully on all aspects [until] after its conclusion.”
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