EU to intervene in Group 4 row

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The Independent Online

The European Parliament is to become involved in the escalating row between the Danish security company Group 4 Falck, Securicor's merger partner, and a US union that is accusing it of poor labour practices.

The Service Employees International Union's concerns have been taken up by Labour MEP Stephen Hughes. He has convinced Julian Priestley, the secretary general of the European Parliament, to open negotiations with Group 4 about the accusations.

In a letter to Mr Hughes, Mr Priestley said he would be contacting the group's head of European operations and added: "I agree with your suggestion that Group 4 Falck should present their views regarding the complaint against their American subsidiary."

Group 4 is the main provider of security services to the European Parliament, holding a contract - which is due to expire next month - for work in Luxembourg and a separate one for Brussels.

In his correspondence with Mr Priestley, Mr Hughes referred to the problem of "European companies exploiting their workers outside current EU borders while maintaining a relatively high standard ... within the EU". He added that the parliament "may be embarrassed if they employ companies like Group 4" without first confirming high labour standards across the business.

The union is threatening to try to derail a planned £728m merger between Group 4 and Securicor. Talks between the Danish and British rivals were announced last month.

Group 4 is standing by its employee practices in the US, however. The company said its pay and benefits "exceed the security industry average by around 40 per cent" and that the training offered to employees "sets the standard for the industry to follow". It added it was "surprised and disappointed" the union had decided not to continue internal discussions with the US management.