SUPERMARKET and on-line shopping giants are making a bee-line for our public services, licking their lips at the prospect of multi-million pound profits out of health, education and housing. Internet giant Amazon has just been awarded a £600 million five-year contract to sell everything from paper clips to bandages to Yorkshire’s schools, social care providers and emergency services.
Discount supermarket giant Lidl is to build more than 3,000 homes. They have already built 335 and want to move into building accommodation for university students. However, Lidl’s public service ambitions go well beyond student accommodation. In Richmond, Deer Park primary school will be rebuilt … over two floors above a Lidl store!
In fact, Lidl are late in the game. Other supermarket giants are also at it. Tesco has already built hundreds of homes above its stores in Woolwich and Streatham, south London, while Sainsbury’s was part of a joint scheme with Barratt Homes, also in south London, involving 700 homes in Nine Elms, near Vauxhall. Amazon’s £600 million contract is with Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation (YPO), a procurement body owned by the council which helps to ‘drive the cost of goods down’ by agreeing massive deals with suppliers.
Neil Derrick, GMB Regional Secretary, said: ‘Amazon has a record of exploitation so terrible, literally hundreds of ambulances are called out to their warehouses as workers suffer from appalling conditions at work. ‘The idea a company like that can provide services for emergency services is a sick joke. If they really wanted to help our public services, they’d pay taxes properly and treat their workforce better. Instead, they’re trying to make a few million quid from our cash-strapped councils.
‘It’s a crying shame the Conservative’s obsessive austerity drive has left local authorities in this position – having to drive public procurement through an anti-public service ethos company such as Amazon.’`
Underlining the fact that these huge capitalist enterprises could not give a damn about the public services they want to provide can be seen clearly with Amazon’s attitude towards paying tax. Amazon Services UK paid £1.7m worth of tax last year. This is down from £7.4m in 2016; this is despite its profits rising from £48m to £80m! It has no interest in paying taxes for schools, hospitals, council housing, libraries or bin collections to function. They are only interested in profits.
That privateers supplying public services is a dangerous game became obvious when the capitalist giant Carillion went belly up and the services it provided collapsed with it. School meals were not delivered, hospitals were not cleaned, thousands turned up to work only to find they had no jobs and hospitals under construction have been abandoned, left as derelict building sites.
Midland Metropolitan Hospital in Smethwick is one of those half-built hospitals left in limbo after the collapse of Carillion in January. The project will be delayed until at least 2022. It needs at least a further £150 million to complete! Unite’s acting West Midlands regional secretary Howard Beckett said: ‘It also must never be forgotten that patients and local residents desperately need a new hospital to ensure they receive the healthcare they deserve. These ongoing delays are denying them that basic right.’
Private companies simply do not care about anything except profit. In Glasgow, notorious private company Serco is now evicting three hundred asylum seekers from their homes, throwing them onto the streets. Serco, which houses thousands of asylum seekers in Glasgow, issued ‘lock change’ notices, giving the vulnerable residents just seven days’ notice to leave the properties.
One of the most damning examples of the disastrous consequences of privatisation can be seen on the UK’s rail system, which has been collapsed by the privateers. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said on Tuesday: ‘What we need is public transport services designed to be safe, reliable and accessible for all and that means bringing those services under public ownership and public control …’ This is not only true for the rail, but for all services. British capitalism is a massive barrier to human progress – it must be removed by a socialist revolution.