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The privatised hell of Britain plc

A secret document has revealed the shape of things to come as jobs and livelihoods are threatened by economic meltdown. Global corporations will be employed by the government to break strikes under the guise of carrying out public services and responding to national emergencies.

Global Solutions, aka Group 4, is to be awarded a £100 million contract to act as a strike breaker, should the fire services be involved in industrial action. The plan which came to light over the weekend, and is due to be approved in the autumn, means that Group 4, will receive a one-off up-front payment of about £10 million, to be followed by £9 million a year over the life of the 10-year contract in return for supplying a pool of staff as cover.

The company would then be called on in scenarios such as pandemic flu, a catastrophic incident or industrial action. And, as Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack has warned, the taxpayer will foot the bill for replacing the fire services with privatised strikebreakers. The FBU is coincidentially gearing up for industrial action in London following attempts by the employers to impose a pay cut.

Group 4 has done extremely well out of New Labour, and now has 30,000 employees and a turnover of £1.1 billion. It has become the largest “security solutions” company in the UK. The company is not alone in cashing in under this government, however. New research reveals that a staggering one third of all the UK’s public services are now carried out by the private and voluntary sectors – double the level when New Labour came to power.

The study commissioned by the government from economist DeAnne Julius shows that the government has encouraged the handover of public services to global corporations at such a rate that this sector has now overtaken the United States as a share of gross domestic product. Total spending on private and voluntary provision has nearly doubled from £42bn in 1995-96 to over £79.4bn at in what amounts to a massive transfer of wealth to companies.

DeAnne Julius is Chairman of Chatham House and a non-executive director of BP and the pharmaceutical corporation Roche. She also serves on the advisory boards of UK and US hedge funds and is vice president of the Society of Business Economists. She was an advisor to British Airways and Shell and a former director of the services company Serco. The incestuous relationship between the government and companies like Serco, BT and Capita will be cemented further this week as business minister John Hutton goes on a trade mission to the United States to promote their services.

Outsourcing is not simply a cash-cow to increase corporate profits. There are other, equally sinister aspects. The effect of outsourcing can be seen clearly in the prison and immigration services, where seven out of the ten main immigration detention centres in the UK are run by private companies for profit under contract to the Home Office. They maximise profits at the expense of the human rights of the detainees.

A report today by the law firm Birnberg Peirce, Medical Justice and the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns exposes how private security guards have abused hundreds of failed asylum seekers during their violent removal from Britain.

The report's authors conclude: "We have found an alarming and unacceptable number of injuries have been sustained by those subject to forced removals. This dossier provides evidence of widespread and seemingly systemic abuse of one of the most vulnerable communities of people in our society, who have fled their own countries seeking safety and refuge."

This is just one example of what happens when big business and the state join together under the executive director of Britain PLC, one Gordon Brown.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win Secretary
14 July 2008

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