THE Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, has called for a "living
wage" to replace the national minimum wage, to address what he said
was the scandal of low pay in the UK (News, 9 November
He is to chair a year-long commission into the living wage.
Women are the most affected by low pay, he said.
"The scale of low pay in the UK is a national scandal. Around
five million people, the majority of them women, aren't paid a wage
high enough to provide a basic but acceptable standard of living.
In too many workplaces, the basic moral imperative that workers be
paid enough to live on has been lost in the pursuit of profit.
"The living wage offers us hope. It is a simple idea with
profound implications for the lives of millions. Yet, for too many
people, the notion of being paid enough to live on remains an
abstract concept. I am honoured to be chairing a Commission that
will investigate how to build a strong future by paying the Living
Wage to workers and, in so doing, build a fair and just
Just 45,000 people in 284 businesses have had their pay changed
as a result of the living-wage campaign, which started up in the
early 2000s, although the debate around it has become much more
mainstream in recent years.
Before the last election, David Cameron described it as a "good
and attractive idea"; and Ed Miliband has also said that it is "an
idea whose time has come".
But Dr Sentamu said that successive governments had just been
applying a "sticking plaster" over the issue of low pay in the UK.
Many companies, he said, were now convinced of the benefits of
paying a living wage.
"Companies themselves are convinced that showing their employees
that they value them, and treating them fairly, has benefits not
only to the workforce, but to the company itself. Treating people
fairly improves morale, loyalty, and commitment. If this were not
the case, more than 100 organisations would not have signed up to
become accredited living-wage employers. The local economy benefits
when the spending power of people living in poverty increases."
The Treasury would also benefit, by increased taxes, and paying
less in top-up benefits to low earners.
The living wage is currently set at £7.45 an hour outside
London, and £8.55 in the capital, compared with the current minimum
wage of £6.19 for adults, and £4.98 for 18-to-20-year-olds.
But the director general of the CBI and a founder member of the
low pay commission, John Cridland, criticised suggestions by Labour
that it could make the living wage compulsory for all companies who
win Whitehall contracts.
He said that Labour's idea to make the pay floor a condition of
public procurement contracts was a "poor idea", pointing out that
contracts often went to small businesses that would not be able to
afford to afford such measures.