Last week, the Bishops of the Church of England released a 56-page letter engaging with political and social issues ahead of the May General Election. One of the issues addressed was that of a Living Wage, an amount calculated annually according to the cost of living in the UK, according to the Living Wage Foundation. In its pastoral letter, the House of Bishops said,
113 This is why the Church of England has backed the concept of the Living Wage – an agreement with employers to ensure that all their staff earn a modest hourly rate that is sufficient for a full time worker to live decently. The Archbishop of York has been at the forefront in arguing for the Living Wage. It represents the basic principle that people are not commodities and that their lives cannot adapt infinitely in response to market pressures. The labour market cannot enable people to live and flourish unless the moral limits of the market are recognised.
But this week, the Sun newspaper broke the news that Church of England institutions were advertising jobs at a rate of pay lower than the current recommended living wage. The BBC took up the story:
The living wage, calculated from the basic cost of UK life, is currently £7.85 an hour outside London.
But the Sun newspaper reports a Church job advertised at £6.50 an hour – something an MP called “astonishing”.
The “Living Wage” is not the same as the legal minimum wage, which is £6.50 an hour for adults over 21.
Yesterday afternoon, the Church of England website posted the following statement:
The Pastoral letter from the House of Bishops was addressed to churches and encouraged them to implement the living wage. The Living Wage Commission, chaired by the Archbishop of York, recognised in its report last year, that a phased implementation may be necessary in some businesses and organisations. It welcomed employers seeking to implement the pay level progressively. What is important is that those who can, do so, as soon as is practically possible. The vast majority of those employed by or sub-contracted to the Church’s central institutions are already paid at least the Living Wage and all will be by April 2017.
Each of our 12,000 parishes, dioceses and cathedrals is a separate legal entity with trustees and has to act in the light of its own circumstances. As charities churches require time to increase giving levels prior to ensuring delivery of the living wage. We are grateful to the Sun and others for highlighting the sound principles behind the living wage and for enabling us to reiterate our own commitment and hope for it to be paid to all people in work.
It also linked to comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during a visit to the Diocese of Birmingham:
“It would be great if we were paying the Living Wage everywhere right away. But as the Archbishop of York said in his Living Wage Commission, we’ve got to move towards it. . .”
Learn more about the Living Wage here.
Posted by Rosalind Hughes