Photo by Flickr user didbygraham. Creative Commons Licence.
The company G4S, or Group 4 Securicor, employs roughly half a million people worldwide and of these over 13,000 are in Malawi, making them the largest private sector employer in the country. On their website they have a Social Responsibility section - "our culture of giving back to the communities in which we operate". Really?
Malawi is one of the 10 poorest nations in the world and more than half the population live below the poverty line of $0.44 or roughly 25p a day. The cost of living as measured by a "Basic Needs Basket" has risen by 23% over the last year.
Pay rise = pay cut
The security guards employed by G4S work 60 hours per week and earn on average $26 or £13, a quarter of what is considered a living wage. In order to work 60 hours a week they work 12 hour days - but are paid for 10 hours under the G4S policy to reduce pay by half for overtime hours. [Source]. G4S are offering a 12% pay rise which would effectively reduce their spending power.
Many of the security guards live in houses without electricity or running water. They walk to work because they can't afford fares, and it could take 90 minutes each way. Their families can't afford school or medical fees for their children.
Workers planned a strike for 30 January but the company won a court injunction against it. The union hopes to overturn the ban and call a strike for 4 February if the company continues to reject their claims.
So what is it that G4S plans to give back into this particular commmunity? Deepening poverty? Exploitation is a word that comes to mind.
I am ashamed to say that the company is based in England, where the Chief Executive enjoys a comfortable salary of £1.1 million.