The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, which is the largest in the world, has withdrawn its investments from a British security company; for alleged violations committed by the company against its foreign workers in the UAE.
The British security company, G4S, is described as the largest private army in the world, and is the third most employed private sector companies in the world, and provides facilities insurance services through its security personnel.
The Norwegian fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund with a value of $ 1.1 trillion, said it took the step because of “unacceptable risks that the company contributes to its responsibility for serious and systematic human rights violations.
The company employs thousands of workers in the UAE, most of them from countries like India, Pakistan and Nepal.
The sovereign fund owns a 2.33% stake in G4S, valued at $91 million at the end of 2018.Once the new decision was announced, the company’s shares on the London Stock Exchange fell 3.7%.
The decision followed a recommendation from the IMF’s Ethics Board, which said its investigations into the company’s operations in the UAE showed serious abuses of foreign employees.
The investigation showed that workers paid recruitment fees so that they could work for G4S, that a large part of their salaries went to pay those fees, and that many of them get lower wages than agreed upon contracting.
In the UAE in particular, the company confiscates workers’ passports to prevent them from returning home without their permission.
Workers were forced to work long hours and received no additional compensation, and their harassment was ignored, according to the investigation.
The council said in its report that G4S had admitted to violating workers ‘rights and said it would end recruitment fees, but did not confirm its abstention from such practices and took no action to stop misleading information about its workers’ wages and working conditions.
The Norwegian Wealth Fund operates according to a set of ethical principles, refraining from investing in tobacco companies and certain types of weapons as well as companies responsible for industries that cause serious environmental damage such as oil, or that violate human rights.
The fund is pursuing a policy of selling shares in the company it will withdraw before issuing a declaration of exclusion from its investment portfolio.
The International Campaign to Boycott the UAE (ICBU) recently called on the UAE authorities to immediately disclose the circumstances of the deaths of two Asian workers in a new development complex on the western side of Dubai.
The Paris-based International Campaign said in a press release that it had received reports from workers including complaints of an accident in which two Sri Lankan workers died at the compound while working on heavy materials.
The campaign was also informed that the UAE authorities had warned workers who witnessed the incident not to speak of an incident or to mention it to any other parties (under the pretext that the investigation was continuing).
The international campaign said that the incident is not isolated from others, where a large number of workers have been killed in similar incidents in recent years in the UAE, which is a frequent phenomenon due to the failure of government systems and lack of accountability.
The International Campaign to Boycott the UAE called on the ILO to take immediate action against human rights violations in the UAE regarding workers who still lack the basics of health and safety requirements in construction.
The international campaign also called on the United Nations to appoint a special rapporteur to oversee the human rights situation of Asian and foreign workers in the UAE due to historical abuses that occur regularly in the country.
The campaign stressed that it will continue to defend the rights of foreign workers in the UAE in light of the widespread violations they face in terms of low wages and subject to slavery practices such as the sponsorship system.