Norges Bank, the central bank of Norway, has decided to exclude UK security services company G4S from its $1.11 trillion Government Pension Fund Global because of the “unacceptable risk that the company contributes to or is responsible for serious systematic human rights violations.”
The bank’s executive board made the exclusion decision based on a recommendation from the central bank’s Council on Ethics. It also said that before excluding a company, it first considers whether the use of other measures, such as exercising ownership rights, may be better suited. With G4S, however, the board said it concluded that no other measures were appropriate.
G4S provides security services in more than 90 countries but the Council on Ethics focused on the company’s operations in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where its employees are mostly migrant workers.
The Council on Ethics said its investigations of GS4 found that employees were required to pay recruitment fees to work for the company. Workers have taken out loans in their home country to pay the fees. It said that when the GS4 workers arrive in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates they must spend a significant part of their salary to pay off this debt, and have little chance of leaving.
Many workers also have received far lower wages than they were promised. In the United Arab Emirates the workers even had their passports confiscated. The Council also uncovered that GS4’s employees in the region worked long days but did not receive overtime payments and were also subject to harassment.
“These regulations, along with the use of recruitment fees and misleading information about working conditions, have been condemned internationally as making migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation,” said the Council in its recommendation to exclude G4S. “G4S therefore operates within a regulatory framework that limits workers’ freedom of action.”
The Council said that G4S has acknowledged that the risk of human rights abuses is high in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The company said it has implemented measures to improve the situation, such as setting a cap on recruitment fees in the Emirates.
“Nevertheless, the company has given no indications that it will stop the charging of recruitment fees,” said the Council. “Nor has the company pointed to any measures to prevent misleading information being given about wages and working conditions. Furthermore, it does not allow its workers in Qatar to change employer.”
The move follows a real estate acquisition more than 8,000 miles away. On Monday, the bank said in a statement that Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and property investment group Prologis have agreed to jointly buy a $1.99 billion logistics real estate portfolio. The portfolio includes 127 US properties in Southern California, San Francisco, Seattle, and Dallas.
The bank paid $896 million for a 45% stake in the portfolio, while Prologis owns 55% and will run the properties. The bank manages the country’s $1.1 trillion sovereign wealth fund.
The new real estate portfolio includes the logistics centers and office buildings in New York, Tokyo, London, and Paris. The acquisition is part of Prologis’ merger agreement to acquire Industrial Property Trust.