THE CAPITALIST contempt for the health and safety of workers in the pursuit of profit has been highlighted this week by the giant on-line retailer Amazon.
Tuesday and Wednesday this week were the days dubbed Amazon Prime Day, the annual sales event which rakes in a fortune for the company.
These profits come at a high price for workers in its warehouses, according to the GMB union which revealed a fresh outbreak of coronavirus, sparking fears that Prime Day could cause a ‘hive of infection’.
At least eight workers have tested positive at the giant Amazon warehouse in Coventry over a 48 hour period in the run up to the sale. Two are reported to be seriously ill in hospital.
Senior GMB organiser Amanda Gearing accused Amazon of ‘cutting corners and ignoring social distancing rules to speed up processes to achieve targets.’
Amazon is testing workers for the virus but the results take at least a week to come back. Meanwhile ‘terrified workers, crammed into facilities, are told they won’t be paid if they don’t come in to work while waiting for test results.’
Gearing said: ‘If Amazon doesn’t want to be responsible for the further spread of this deadly virus, it needs to stop flooding facilities with agency workers to maximise profits, enforce social distancing and send anyone home on full pay who may be infected until either the 14 days is over or they test negative.’
Amazon clearly has no intention of enforcing correct measures or paying the wages of workers sent home. Across the world the company has ruthlessly pursued profit at the expense of its workers.
In the US, nearly 20,000 Amazon workers have contracted Covid-19 as Amazon has kept its facilities open throughout the pandemic, making huge profits to swell the wealth of its founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man whose fortune is estimated to be over $200 billion.
Amazon is not the only company that has made a fortune out of the pandemic while millions of workers have been thrown out of work.
In Britain, the privateer company Serco, which gets 40% of its total revenue from the Tory privatisation of public services, was handed a contract worth £108 million for just 14 weeks to operate the disastrous national test and trace programme with the option of extending for longer up to a value of £410 million in total.
At its best Serco only managed to contact about 60% of those testing positive – while the NHS, despite being systematically cut to ribbons by the Tories, contacted over 98%.
The GMB union revealed this week that, despite Serco being at the heart of the NHS Track and Trace scandal, it is attempting to slash nearly a hundred jobs from its Birmingham Community Leisure service that it is contracted to run.
This is despite the company getting nearly £4 million from Birmingham Council over the coronavirus crisis. Gill Ogilvie, GMB senior organiser, said: ‘Why are we paying millions to a private company who kick working families to the curb just before Christmas?’
This is a question millions of workers are asking today, as it becomes clear that the coronavirus pandemic has been seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity by companies like Serco and many thousands more to reap huge profits out of a medical crisis.
One glaring example is the scandal surrounding the sourcing of vital Personal Protection Equipment. The Tories in March invited tenders for PPE and spent a staggering £15 billion on contracts for their provision.
The details of these contracts and whether the PPEs were usable have been kept a closely guarded secret by the government and is now subject to a court case brought by the Good Law Project to force disclosure.
The Tories are right to be scared of revealing the billions handed out to privateers like Serco who have leeched off the NHS and public services for years.
The working class is rapidly reaching the conclusion that for capitalism the coronavirus pandemic is just a massive opportunity for profit regardless of the cost in human life and that the only solution is the struggle to overthrow capitalism through socialist revolution.
This is the only way forward.