Serco began life in 1929 when Radio Corporation of America formed a UK subsidiary, RCA Services, to support the country's growing cinema industry. Now it employs more than 100,000, has turnover of £4.6bn, and is the UK's largest private supplier of public services. Its contracts range from cycle hire in London to maintaining nuclear warheads.
Serco describes itself as "a values-led company with a culture and ethos that is at the heart of everything we do". It is so proud of its ethos that it publishes an attractively designed magazine of the same name, dedicated to "exploring the debates that shape public services". The Serco ethos is "imbued with a spirit of public service".
So it seems almost churlish to mention money, but in 2010 the FTSE100 company, which is almost entirely dependent on public funds, paid its CEO Christopher Hyman £3.1m – six times more than the highest-paid UK public servant. Senior executives have continued to receive austerity-busting pay rises in recent years, but other staff earn less than the living wage.
In 2012, whistleblowers revealed that Serco's out-of-hours GP service in Cornwall was understaffed, lacking in training and risked patient safety. In an act hardly imbued with a spirit of public service, the company had provided false data to the NHS on 252 occasions.
Serco is nominated for:
Running an out-of-hours GP service that was understaffed, provided inadequate training and left patients facing long waits – and falsifying its records 252 times.
(Source: Guardian 20/9/12, Guardian 25/5/12)
Losing and mislabelling patient blood and tissue samples following its takeover of NHS pathology services.
(Source: Corporate Watch 30/9/12, Guardian 30/9/12)
Paying chief executive Christopher Hyman £3.1m in 2010, more than 250 times the salary of his lowest-paid UK staff (in contrast to the 20:1 public sector pay ratio backed by David Cameron).
(Source: One Society 9/11, Daily Mail 13/3/11, Financial Times 30/3/11)
Spurning campaigners' pleas for FTSE100 companies to pay all employees at least a living wage.
(Source: FairPensions, Living Wage Foundation, Serco jobs search)
Going further than the government by recommending benefit cuts for 9,000 people on its workfare schemes. (Almost 7,000 of those requests were rejected.)
(Source: Guardian 30/6/12, Corporate Watch 1/7/12)
Multiple allegations of assault, abuse and neglect at its UK and Australian immigration detention centres.
(Source: BBC News 24/2/10, Guardian 25/5/12, Guardian 7/12/11, Medical Justice Network 7/08, Liberty 17/7/12, Bureau of Investigative Journalism 11/4/12, The West Australian 25/8/11)
Receiving an ethical rating of just 4.5 out of 20 from Ethical Consumer – second from bottom in its outsourcing league.
(Source: False Economy 16/11/11, Ethical Consumer 11/11)