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Human rights concerns in Qatar and the UAE behind decision to exclude G4S from Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund ; includes response from G4S

The Council of Ethics of Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) recommended divesting from the UK-headquartered security company G4S, “due to an unacceptable risk that the company is contributing to systematic human rights violations” against workers in Qatar and the UAE.

The decision by the Council of Ethics is partly based on interviews with migrant workers on their conditions of employment conducted between 2016 and 2018. Investigations uncovered that workers faced restrictions on their freedom of movement, the charging of exorbitant recruitment fees, misleading information in relation to the length of their contracts and salaries, unacceptable long working days and in some instances harassment.

The Council concluded many of these practices contravene international law and standards including ILO conventions, and highlighted the potential impact of these abuses on around 18,000 migrant workers employed by G4S in Qatar and the UAE.

While acknowledging some improvements introduced by G4S since 2016 including in relation to the withholding of passports, the Council concluded that the company had not taken sufficient steps to address the “systematic and deep-rooted challenges” of its operations in the Gulf, despite awareness of its negative human rights impact. At the close of 2018, the GPFG owned about 2.33% of G4S shares, but has since sold most.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre contacted G4S inviting them to respond to the decision. Their statement, confirming their commitment to respecting migrant worker rights, is available below.

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27 November 2019

Statement from G4S Group CEO regarding migrant worker policies and practices

Author: G4S

At G4S, we invest in substantial resources to ensure that our employment policies and practices are consistent with international conventions...

The Board and Executive are committed to the ongoing investment in our assurance programme to ensure that our migrant worker policies are implemented in all the businesses we manage and by the suppliers we use...

The announcement made by the Council on Ethics... referred to a number of potential risks relating to migrant workers in parts of the Middle East. G4S takes these matters extremely seriously and has engaged with the Council closely and co-operatively. We are determined to fully address their concerns.

Read the full post here

18 November 2019

G4S has no place on ethical index, London Stock Exchange told

Author: Jasper Jolly, Guardian (UK)

Human rights campaigners have criticised the London Stock Exchange Group for including G4S on ethical investment indices...

Vaidehee Sachdev [senior research manager at ShareAction]... called on FTSE Russell to remove G4S until it showed progress on improving its human rights record...

“People who want to do good with their money would rightly be horrified to be invested in a company that fails to meet basic human rights standards”...

Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s economic affairs programme director, said... “Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is likely to offer a better assessment [than ethical indices such as FTSE4Good] of whether G4S is actually doing enough to root out modern forms of slavery from its Gulf supply chains.”

Read the full post here

Company response
18 November 2019

G4S responds to the exclusion decision of the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund

“We welcomed the engagement with the Council on Ethics over the past three years and we wholeheartedly agree that migrant workers need care and support and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect at all times. We are committed to ensuring that they feel confident that they can raise any concerns they have about any aspect of their employment with G4S."

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Author: Drbyos, Nouvelles du Monde

« Le fonds souverain norvégien place G4S sur la liste des risques liés aux droits humains », 14 novembre 2019

Le plus grand fonds souverain du monde s'est retiré de G4S, une société cotée au Royaume-Uni, affirmant que la société de sécurité posait un risque pour sa position éthique en matière de droits de l'homme...

Le Conseil a précisé que ses inquiétudes découlaient du fait qu'un grand nombre des 18 000 membres du personnel de G4S dans les pays du Golfe sont étrangers et ont payé des frais de recrutement pour rejoindre l'entreprise...

Un porte-parole [de G4S] a déclaré: "Nous nous félicitons de notre engagement avec le Conseil de déontologie au cours des trois dernières années et nous sommes tout à fait d’accord pour dire que les travailleurs migrants ont besoin de soins et de soutien et méritent d’être traités avec dignité et respect à tout moment...

"Nous avons bien progressé dans notre plan d'action visant à renforcer nos normes élevées en matière de recrutement des employés et de protection sociale au Moyen-Orient.

"Nous avons nommé un coordinateur des travailleurs migrants à plein temps dont le rôle principal est de mener des recherches sur les agences de recrutement, leurs pratiques et leurs honoraires dans chacun des pays d'origine, en veillant au strict respect de notre code et du respect de nos politiques et normes de l'emploi. sont confirmés. "

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15 November 2019

Norges Bank excludes G4S from portfolio over human rights concerns

Author: Gavin Hinks, Board Agenda

Boardrooms were delivered a blunt reminder this week that human rights cannot be ignored.

Norges Bank, the $1,000bn sovereign wealth fund investing Norway’s oil revenues, announced it would exclude G4S from its portfolio because of an “unacceptable risk” that the company is either responsible for, or contributes to, “human right violations”...

According to Diana Eltahawy, head of the migrants programme in the Gulf for the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre: “This is why this decision is monumental and unprecedented. Human rights are just as important as climate. Companies really need to assess all their risks.”

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14 November 2019

G4S blacklisted by Norway for human rights concerns: So why is it still in FTSE's index of ethical shares?

Author: Francesca Washtell, Daily Mail/ This is Money (UK)

There were calls last night for G4S to be thrown out of a leading ethical share index after it was blacklisted by Norway's state-backed wealth fund over human rights concerns...

G4S still boasts on its website membership of the FTSE 4 Good index of socially responsible companies...

A spokesman from investor charity Share Action told the Mail: 'The G4S board must publicly take full responsibility for the abuses. It should be removed from the FTSE 4 Good index.'

Cliff Weight, director at non-profit investor group Sharesoc, said: 'These are unbelievably serious allegations. It is clearly time for them [G4S] to come out of the FTSE 4 Good index.'

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14 November 2019

Norwegian wealth fund blacklists G4S shares over human rights concerns

Author: Jasper Jolly, Guardian (UK)

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has banned all holdings of shares in British security services company G4S because of the risk of human rights violations against its workforce in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates...

G4S, which is listed on the FTSE 250, provides security services in more than 90 countries, but the Council of Ethics focused on its “extensive use” of migrant workers from India, Pakistan and Nepal across the Middle East.

G4S said in a statement it agreed that migrant workers deserved to be treated with dignity and respect, and said it had hired a migrant worker coordinator to address the issues raised by the council.

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14 November 2019

Recommendation to exclude G4S PLC from the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG)

Author: Etikkradet Statens Pensjonsfond Utland (Norwegian Government Pension Fund)

The Council on Ethics recommends that G4S PLC (G4S) be excluded from investment by the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) due to an unacceptable risk that the company is contributing to systematic human rights violations...

Migrant workers [in Qatar and UAE] are subject to regulations that link the employee’s work permit to a specific employer... [and] with the use of recruitment fees and misleading information about working conditions, have been condemned internationally as making migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation... G4S therefore operates within a regulatory framework that limits workers’ freedom.

Read the full post here

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