Opinion Former Article

Unite: Tax avoidance, strike breaking, human rights abuses: The organisations bidding to profit from West Midlands police privatisation

Unite, Britain's biggest union, has lifted the lid on the activities and record of some of the organisations attempting to profit from our police service (see notes to editors).

A report published today (24 May) by the Unite union reveals the activities of some of the bidders reported to be competing to run West Midlands police services. 17 members of the West Midlands police authority are meeting today (Thursday, May 24th) to consider whether to proceed through to the next stage (third gateway) of privatisation.

Under the aegis of the Business Partnering for Police programme, the West Midlands police is being used as a pilot for a programme that could be rolled out across all 43 police forces in England and Wales. Unite, whose police force members fiercely oppose the plans, say that they will see core policing functions, including 999 call handling, prisoner transfer and forensics, put into the hands of profits-first companies.

The bidders include a company with no experience of police work, an organisation alleged to have avoided tax, organisations involved in strike breaking, a company that closed the workers' final salary pension scheme while paying executive directors up to £400,000 in pensions alone. The same organisation has also been accused of human rights abuses and involved in a catalogue of scandals.

The report was written by David Hencke, a respected former Guardian investigative journalist and Whitehall expert .

The union says that the public has been kept in the dark about the privatisation plans, and, as a Unite poll showed recently, express deep unease when they learn more about `policing for profit'. (see notes to editors)

Unite national officer, Peter Allenson said:"The people of the West Midlands have a right to know more about the unsavoury record of some of the organisations bidding to profit from our police service. From organisations involved in human rights abuses to tax avoiders, many of the bidders have unsavoury records and we believe there is no place for these organisations in running our police service.

"The message is clear. West Midlands police service will be for sale unless the police authority votes against privatisation and keeps the police public. The duty of the police is to protect our commmunites and put the public first not to allow profiteers to take control. That is why we urge police authority members to oppose any attempts to turn the West Midlands into a test bed for the nation."

ENDS

For further information, please contact Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315

Notes to editors:

The report can be viewed here: http://www.unitetheunion.org/pdf/4878_TaxAvoidance_4.pdf

The report found that one of the bidders, security firm G4S has been involved in the following incidents in the UK:

Over 700 complaints against it over treatment of detainees- 130 upheld. 48 assault complaints. Particular criticism of detainees held at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow. (Guardian 17th June 2011).
In 2010 it lost a Home Office forcible deportation contract to Reliance (also bidding and are said to have offered to do it cheaper) after the death of an Angolan deportee, Jimmy Mubenga, while being restrained on flight back home.
A report by the Commons Home Affairs Committee (Rules governing enforced removal from the UK - http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmhaff/563/563.pdf) - condemned G4S over its treatment and said there were likely to be far more cases than the number of complaints.
Another report by John Grayson reveals G4S activity in South Yorkshire which has attracted complaints from academics http://www.symaag.org.uk/2012/04/24/mobilising-outrage-our-campaign-against-g4s/
Among proposals it reveals G4S bidding to take over asylum housing across Yorkshire with plans to evict 900 asylum seekers families as part of the package.

Another bidder, Reliance , is wholly owned by Tory donor Brian Kingham, a backer of Michael Howard and Iain Duncan Smith , who gave over £120,000 between 2002 and 2005 to the Conservative party.

Brian Kingham appears to have unusual financial arrangements for his business, which was delisted from the Stock Exchange and is now wholly owned by Mr Kingham through a family trust.

Specialising in running police custody services and PFI building programmes for police and fire services , the company recently won contract for sexual examinations of rape victims for Northumbria Police.

Reliance was also sub contracted by the AssetCo company – which has the contract to maintain London’s fire engines – to provide strike breaking auxiliary firefighters.

Blue Star
This company has no experience of police work, but one contract with London Firebrigade. The contract with the LFB involved working with Reliance and AssetCo to provide help for auxiliary firefighters in strike breaking action.

KBR
US construction and defence, logistics and gas company which built Guantanamo Bay and was close to Dick Cheney, the neo-con vice president under George Bush.

In March 2008, the Boston Globe reported that KBR had avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in federal Medicare (health insurance) and Social Security taxes by hiring workers through shell companies based in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands. More than 21,000 people working for KBR in Iraq - including about 10,500 Americans - are listed as employees of two companies, Service Employers International Inc., and Overseas Administrative Services, which exist on the island only in computer files in an office.

More than 20 federal lawsuits naming KBR and seeking class-action status were filed in late 2008 and 2009 over the practice of operating "burn pits" at U.S. bases in both Iraq and Afghanistan and thus exposing soldiers to smoke containing dioxin, asbestos and other harmful substances. The pits are said to include "every type of waste imaginable," with items such as "tires, lithium batteries, Styrofoam, paper, wood, rubber, petroleum-oil-lubricating products, metals, hydraulic fluids, munitions boxes, medical waste, biohazard materials (including human corpses), medical supplies (including those used during smallpox inoculations), paints, solvents, asbestos insulation, items containing pesticides, polyvinyl chloride pipes, animal carcasses, dangerous chemicals, and hundreds of thousands of plastic water bottles."

The union understands that the following organisations (grouped into consortiums) are bidding for work at West Midlands police.

BT / Vanguard / Reliance
Blue Star
Capita
G4S with Cap Gemini and Seria
KBR with IBM
Logika / Northgate / Amy.com
HP / Serco

  

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