As I was walking down Fulham Palace Road in Hammersmith, I spotted a roadsweeper’s trolley with the name “Serco” on the side. Serco are the new waste management partners of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham having recently taken over the contract. It then occurred to me that Serco is involved in more than one business activity, some of which are not well-known to the general public.
I’d known for some time that Serco was the operator of the Docklands Light Railway but what I didn’t know was that they also operate the Woolwich Free Ferry. Last year Serco was found guilty of failing to stop a train at All Saints station after a passenger fell onto the track and were fined £450,000. A drop in the ocean. They were given the contract to run the London Cycle Hire Scheme and they also run Merseyrail and Northern Rail. Neither operator, it seems, is much-loved.
Here’s a small list of Serco’s other activities
Nuclear – they manage the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston
NHS – they run a variety of activities from facilities management and pathology labs to occupational health and hospital cleaning
Defence – under this heading they manage the AWE as well as the Defence Science and Techonology Laboratory. They provide support for the Skynet 5 military satellite network and provide training at the Defence Academy
Leisure – this is an odd one: they run 65 leisure and fitness facilities on behalf of local authorities and universties
This article from Bloomberg says that they are involved in a bid to run India’s nuclear programme.
Serco Group describes itself as an “international services provider”.
Last week a guard at the Serco-run Yarl’s Wood detention centre was suspended after he was accused of having an affair with a detainee .
Serco took over the running of Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in April 2007.
The centre, opened in November 2001, had been hit by a series of incidents, including a major fire in February 2002 which destroyed half the building.
Staff at a Buckinghamshire hospital were paid so poorly that they had no choice but to work – even when sick. The Buckinghamshire Free Press says,
HOSPITAL staff have gone into work whilst ill because they do not receive ‘adequate’ sick pay, union leaders have said.
Some cleaning, portering and catering services at Wycombe and Amersham hospitals are contracted to private firm Medirest – but its staff only get statutory sick pay of £79.15 per week.
Some workers say they feel they have no choice but to go to work to earn their full wage – but warn this is putting vulnerable patients at risk.
Some companies will do anything for a profit, even if it means putting people’s lives at risk.
But how, exactly, does a private prison make a profit? That’s a question to which no one seems to know the answer. If anyone knows, please feel free to drop me a line.