The leaders of some of the UK’s biggest trade unions and campaign groups are asking UK-based multinational security firm G4S to clarify its announcement that it “expects to exit” the Israeli market and sell its Israeli subsidiary.
G4S is being pushed for information about when the sale will take place and to commit to immediately stop working with Israeli bodies that are involved in human rights abuses, such as Israeli occupation forces and the Israel Prison Service.
The letter is signed by Unite the Union, UNISON, the National Union of Teachers, construction union UCAAT and the Fire Brigades Union, as well as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, War on Want, and the Stop G4S UK campaign.
When G4S announced in March that it intends to sell its Israeli subsidiary, the news was welcomed as a significant step forward for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
At the same time, it was clear that the pressure had to continue because G4S has a long track record of breaking its promises.
For example, a pledge G4S made in 2012 to end its involvement in Ofer prison and Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank by the end of 2015 was never translated into reality.
Now G4S is being pushed to turn its words into actions by trade unions representing millions of workers in the UK.
“We are concerned that [G4S] continues to provide services to Israeli state bodies that commit serious violations of international law and Palestinian human rights and that the announcement of a sale of G4S Israel may be used to justify ongoing complicity in human rights violations,” the letter states.
The full text of the letter addressed to G4S CEO Ashley Almanza and the six detailed questions it asks are at the bottom of this article.
The letter comes ahead of the company’s annual shareholders meeting on 26 May, where activists plan to protest the company’s ongoing complicity.
The last five annual meetings have been met with strong protests and disruptions by campaigners over the company’s role in human rights abuses in Palestine, the UK and around the world.
The company has moved this year’s meeting out of Central London to Sutton in the far southwest of the city to try to discourage protests.
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights UK recently published an analysis arguing that the G4S announcement that the firm “expects to exit” Israel falls short of a firm commitment and that “withdrawal should take place immediately or as soon as practicable, rather than the nebulous stated period of 12-24 months.”
The fact that the world’s biggest security company and one of the world’s largest private employers is even talking about exiting the Israeli market is testament to the impact of the international campaign against the company.
Clearly, all the negative media attention, the lost contracts with businesses, universities and unions and the decision to divest by investors including the Bill Gates Foundation and the United Methodist Church are worrying G4S.
It is likely that the decisions by three UN bodies in Jordan to stop working with the company and the vote by the executive of the UK Labour Party to stop using the company at its annual conference were all particularly painful for G4S.
The international campaign against G4S was first activated in Europe but is now increasingly spreading to the Arab World, Latin America and the US.
A major restaurant chain in Colombia recently cut its ties with G4S following a campaign by BDS activists in the country and a G4S campaign is ongoing in Brazil.
The Trade Union Center of G4S employees in Uruguay also endorsed the campaign against G4S.
A coalition of US groups recently launched the g4sfacts.org website which details the role that the company plays in numerous human rights violations, including in Palestine and in US and UK youth detention facilities.