The Tory government has made a mess of the pandemic response from beginning to end. At the same time, their rich chums have been handed generous contracts. The chaos on the frontline shows why we need a socialist solution.
Across the country, private biomedical and biotechnological firms have been brought in to bolster the government’s COVID-19 testing abilities. This follows a decade of Tory-sanctioned looting of the NHS.
I was recently hired by one such firm to process NHS COVID-19 samples. The experience opened my eyes to the unbelievable incompetence of the Tory government, and the lengths that private firms will go to in their ruthless search for profit.
Obviously private sector firms did not offer to assist the government with COVID-19 testing out of the goodness of their hearts. All businesses are run with just one goal in mind: generating profit. And biomedical firms are no different.
However, the sheer scale of profiteering from these extremely lucrative government contracts is frankly staggering. Processing of samples costs less than half what the government currently pays private firms. That means a profit rate of 100% for the lucky contractors.
At the firm I work for, all this profit is funnelled straight to the shareholders. And yet despite the huge sums the government is prepared to pay my employer, we do not prioritise government samples. Instead, preference is given to samples from other private firms who pay even more.
Last in our order of priority are samples from care homes, where those most vulnerable to COVID-19 live. These are only processed when everything else has been done. This once again demonstrates how – under capitalism – profit trumps all morality and public good.
In COVID-19 testing facilities we experience the general incompetence of the government first hand – in particular when it comes to the consistency of receiving samples for processing.
On some days we get nothing, forcing our entire facility to shut down, when it could be processing samples. On other days the government sends too much, leading to many hours of unplanned overtime.
So whenever you hear the government announce a testing increase on the news, just know it’s just as much a surprise to us as it is to everyone else! The first we hear about it is when we experience an unexpected spike in the number of samples we receive.
Still, our bosses love these random bottlenecks. For them it just means more money to line their pockets.
The majority of people hired by my employer are recent graduates working in extremely poor conditions. The incompetence and greed mentioned already frequently lead to extended working hours far beyond what we are contracted for.
Just the other day, a colleague of mine worked over 16 hours to deal with a huge spike in samples…only for the government to send zero samples the following day!
The company tries to motivate its workers by arguing that what we are doing is a genuine public good. But when we consider the real, grubby motives of the capitalists who took on these contracts, it leads to a feeling of cognitive dissonance.
All of the staff have become completely alienated from their work. Previously thought-inducing processes have been reduced down to a monotonous production line. Well-educated and well-meaning individuals have become appendages of biotech capital.
Meanwhile, undertrained staff placed under intense pressure frequently make mistakes. This increases the likelihood of patients receiving false negatives and unknowingly transmitting the virus to others. Prioritisation of profit means people’s lives are being placed at risk.
Under a rational socialist system, we would expropriate the means of testing, including the biotech companies. Profiteering and outsourcing would be eliminated, with work brought in-house and put under workers’ control, as part of a proper public plan.
By dedicating plentiful resources to a mass track-and-trace system, we could restore a sense of normality in these extraordinary times.
Instead, Boris’ big business government has dished out generous contracts to its mates in the private sector. The whole debacle has only underlined further why we must fight for a socialist system.