It was reported yesterday that the boss of the Domino's pizza chain in the UK, Lance Batchelor, wants another mass influx of overseas workers into the UK. He claimed that he couldn't find enough staff for his pizza shops from within the UK (and the EU).
He was supported by Sir Stuart Rose, the former boss of a supermarket chain. According to him, it is right that companies offer low pay as long as there is someone round the world willing to accept the work:
the former boss of Marks & Spencer, Sir Stuart Rose, also attacked the work ethic of many Britons and said it was wrong to criticise immigrants prepared to work for lower salaries.
Sir Stuart added: "It is up to people to decide whether they want to do the work for the pay that is being offered. If they don’t, somebody else is there to do it. What’s wrong with that?...I’m a free market economist – we operate in a free market. If these people want to come here, and work the hours they are prepared to work for the wages they are prepared to work for, then so be it."
I'm afraid that Sir Stuart Rose's comments are a good example of why I am not an absolute supporter of free market economics (though I am generally sympathetic to a market economy). If Sir Stuart had his way, the wages of British workers would fall to the lowest level that any migrant from around the world would be willing to work at.
It shows a gross lack of the virtue of fidelity: he is not standing in a faithful relationship with his own countrymen and willing what is good for them.
The good news is that Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, was having none of it and rebuked the two men:
Businesses complaining about a lack of British applicants to fill job vacancies should pay higher wages, the immigration minister declared last night.
Mark Harper said that, if firms were unable to find willing workers, they were not paying the market rate and should ‘reflect’ on the salary package they are offering.
Mr Harper said there was no question of the government relaxing immigration rules so Domino’s could ‘keep wages low’.
He pointed out that Domino’s can recruit staff from within the entire EU without restrictions – an area that covers 500million people.
Mr Harper told a committee of MPs: ‘If out of a market of hundreds of millions of people you cannot find enough people to work in your restaurant, you should look at how much you are paying.
‘Dominos should pay what the market demands to fill their roles’
There is something else that Sir Stuart Rose and Lance Batchelor should consider. It is not always laziness that leads a local worker to reject a job that an immigrant worker is willing to take. It is often the case that local workers can't afford to do so.
For instance, if you're a male British worker and are offered a job on minimal pay you are likely to harm your position when it comes to attracting a possible future wife. But for a male immigrant that wage might look good to a woman from his home country.
Similarly, a male British worker has to look for accommodation standards that the women of his own community would accept, something that transient migrant workers might not have to worry about.
It's the case too in the US that undocumented migrant workers don't have to pay tax on their earnings and can therefore live on a lower wage than a local.
I can understand a local worker looking at a substandard pay offer and wondering why it would be worth accepting if it didn't provide him with an opportunity to establish a family of his own.