You’ve probably seen them in their bright green vests placing parking tickets on your windshield or handling cash drops at the University of Winnipeg banking machine.
Group 4 Securicor (G4S), a prominent security company, has been popping up a lot in Winnipeg recently, raising interest in the company and concern among those who oppose contracting out city services.
With over half-a-million employees, the British company is the second-largest private employer in the world, after Wal-Mart.
“We’re a security solutions company,” said Thor Goodmanson, district manager of G4S in Winnipeg. “We have the ability to track our clients, using GPS, to any corner of the planet … There are a couple of spots in Antarctica we can’t reach … yet.”
Goodmanson oversees the security solutions and technology divisions of G4S from his office at 530 Century St., while a third arm - cash solutions - operates from an office on Wall Street.
The City of Winnipeg contracted with G4S to enforce parking last year. There have been criticisms leveled against the city for contracting G4S, notably by Pete Hudson, a professor at the University of Manitoba.
In a November 2008 article for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, he cautioned against “flaws in ideology” responsible for city council’s decision to contract with G4S, when the alternative of contracting city staff was hardly considered.
The traditional argument for privatizing public services is that it will be more cost-efficient and services will be more effectively administered.
“No one’s added up the numbers to actually show that this actually happens,” said Hudson.
Another criticism came from a former employee of the cash solutions arm of G4S who spoke on condition of anonymity about his mixed feelings towards the company.
“I hated the company I worked for because they didn’t care about their staff ... what you are there is cattle.”
He recalled a shootout that took place on Route 90.
Attacked by an armed robber, “one of our guys was shot in the leg … The supervisor then came up to the cop that had been called in, and said, ‘Are you guys done here? I need someone to finish my run.’”
The cop replied, “No, these guys are mine for the day.”
Indifferent, the supervisor insisted his staff move along to “finish the run.”
Goodmanson, however, said G4S is “very in touch with [its] employees.”
He pointed to a newsletter which regularly honours employee achievements.
Published in Volume 64, Number 9 of The Uniter (October 29, 2009)