Huge deal aims to change face of security industryJanuary 2009
The world’s second largest private employer has signed an Ethical Employment Partnership with the biggest international grouping of trade unions.
The security company G4S, which employs 570,000 people worldwide, has agreed the document with Union Network International (UNI), a federation of more than 900 unions representing 20 million members in more than 110 countries.
Both partners claim the agreement will be important in raising workplace conditions in the security services sector across developing markets in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America, where G4S employs more than two-thirds of its global workforce.
The agreement commits local G4S managers in each of the countries in which the company operates to sit down with union leaders and agree collective bargaining deals that will then allow them to make further agreements on pay and other benefits.
Jenni Myles, director of employee engagement and human resources at G4S, told EP the idea was to try to raise the level of union representation for staff so that improvements can be made to their working conditions, thereby delivering better staff retention and improving morale and productivity.
G4S, which is listed in London and Copenhagen, was formed in 2004 through the merger of Securicor and Group 4. Its 2007 turnover was £4.4billion ($6.7bn). Myles said the company’s sheer size gave it an opportunity to deal with labour practices on a global level and that the agreement would ‘ensure consistency in union and employee relations’ throughout its operations.
She added that G4S had considered a worldwide agreement ‘for a number of years’. It began serious discussions with the UK-based GMB union in 2007, and then extended the talks to other unions. ‘We believe we can improve standards not just in G4S but in the wider business community,’ she said.
G4S will roll out the agreement gradually, probably starting in India and South Africa early this year, so that it can learn from any mistakes and improve the way it handles negotiations. Both parties to the deal emphasized that it would be regularly updated and adjusted.
Philip Jennings, UNI’s general secretary, said the agreement was the first of its kind for a British-based services sector employer. ‘We believe that a global company working with a global union is the way forward for a sustainable business model,’ he said.
Although reliable figures are not available, it is thought that only around ten per cent of all people in the security sector are unionised.
G4S says the accord will increase costs in the long term, particularly through higher wage rates. However, it points out: ‘Our life-cycle employment costs will be reduced by lower staff turnover, and we believe the win-win of higher employee satisfaction and higher customer satisfaction will demonstrate the true commercial value of this partnership.’
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