Threat of inflation a poor argument against wage increases

I fully agree with Larry Elliott (So what’s so wrong with labour shortages driving up low wages?’, 29 August) and take issue with your correspondent (Letters, 30 August). As a former wages inspector, I well remember Margaret Thatcher and other rightwingers’ arguments for the abolition of the wages councils that set minimum rates in traditionally low-paid and usually non-unionised industries. Their arguments were basically the same – that it would increase inflation.

It is surprising to me that so many people who I suspect consider themselves to be leftwing are opposed to poorly paid workers improving their pay. Inflation does not have to be a consequence of increased pay. When the wages councils introduced yearly pay increases, there was no subsequent increase in inflation. This was because the rates were still quite low compared to the average pay rates throughout the country as a whole. The decision to abolish the wages councils was purely ideological on the part of the government. We have legal minimum rates at the moment without any detrimental effects on inflation, and giving low-paid workers a decent increase will make very little difference.

As far as Brexit and the effect of mass immigration are concerned, it should be understood that a large majority of immigrants are from economically poorer countries than the UK and are predominantly working class – and as such are in direct competition with British working-class people.

By contrast, middle-class employment is largely unaffected by immigration, with work such as university lecturing, the NHS, the legal profession and so on having recognised pay scales which are largely adhered to.

Using the perceived and spurious threat of inflation as an argument for preventing poorly paid workers receiving decent pay is wrong.
Dr Robert Nicholls
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

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