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Workers justified in asking for wage rises against inflation, says Christian economist

by Premier Journalist

On a day when food inflation figures remain stubbornly high, a Christian economist has backed the rights of workers to combine together to negotiate fairer levels of pay.

“We have a low wage, high welfare economy”, commented Professor Adrian Pabst of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). “And that means people depend continuously on tax credits and all sorts of other welfare help in order to get by. That is not a sustainable situation for millions of households up and down the country”, he told Premier Christian News.

Inflation hit 10.1 per cent in March, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), driven by a 19.1 per cent jump in food and drink prices.

As the cost of living crisis continues, the prospect of corporations engaging in ‘price gouging’ - increasing the cost of items at the shopping till, in order to keep their profits high - is coming under scrutiny.

The grocery sector faces investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) amid "ongoing concerns about high prices". The CMA is looking at whether increases are linked to "any failure in competition".

Earlier this year, Tesco chair John Allan said it was "entirely possible" that food producers could be hiking prices more than was necessary.

Whether workers deserve a pay rise to match inflation is of concern to Professor Pabst, who told Premier: “Christians should be very much on the side of the dignity of labour not just on the side of private profit”.

“In Christian Social Teaching, the dignity of labour is really important as it is in part what makes us more human”, he reflected.

“It's not just a job that pays bills or something that gives us self-esteem, we make a contribution to the economy and society”, he continued. “This is something for which we should be recognised and rewarded and people should be allowed to organise to defend that very legitimate interest”, he said.

In a move to maintain their status as the best-paying employer in the grocery sector, supermarket chain Lidl announced today their third pay increase in a year, affecting all of its 24,500 hourly-paid workers.

At the same time, riders with takeaway delivery company Deliveroo staged a protest at the company’s AGM to raise their concerns over pay levels and worries related to their "independent worker" status.

Demonstrators outside the venue backed by campaigners at ShareAction and the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain held banners reading "Shame on Shu" and chanted: "Deliveroo, you're no good, pay your riders like you should."

Professor Pabst told Premier: “Private businesses should be thinking about a pay rise, because a pay rise can also help their own productivity and their profitability over time”. He added “If you only think quarter to quarter, you might think, well, it's an extra cost. But if you're thinking that your workers will be more motivated, it can help the business in the medium term”.

“Pay has really fallen behind, living standards are down by on average, about 8 per cent", he said. "For some families, that means they would have to have £4000 more to just get back to living standards in 2019/2020”, he continued.

“That's a huge amount. So wages have to rise, the government has to commit to that. And it just requires a multi-year strategy”, he concluded. 

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