EIGHTEEN months ago, the General Synod carried a motion
endorsing the "Christian" values that underpinned the Living Wage,
and called on the Church of England to embrace the concept.
A Church Times investigation shows the extent to which
that call has been heard. Thirty-four dioceses have confirmed that
all their staff are paid the Living Wage - at least £7.65 an hour
outside London - as well as numerous cathedrals, charities, and all
national church institutions.
The relationship between Christianity and modern campaigns for
fair wages goes back more than 100 years. In 1891, Pope Leo XIII
issued an encyclical, Rerum Novarum, condemning "wealthy
owners" who pushed down their workers' pay for their own gain.
Some 110 years later, in 2001, a group of community workers
ineast London found that many parents were struggling to make ends
meet. In response, they launched the Living Wage - a new,
non-statutory minimum wage that would provide an employee with the
income required to meet the basic costs of living.
The Church Times asked every diocese in the C of E
whether all its employees were paid the Living Wage. Every one of
the 34 who replied confirmed that their directly employed staff
were being paid at least £7.65 per hour.
A few dioceses said that some staff connected with, but not
directly employed by, their diocesan board of finance were paid
less than £7.65 per hour. In Leicester, some staff at Launde Abbey
and St Martin's Cathedral Properties (a subsidiary) were paid below
Thirty-six employees of a chain of academies run by the Diocese
of Salisbury Academies Trust were paid less than the Living Wage, a
spokesman for the diocese said; their wages could not be lifted
without raising pay levels for other employees. All other diocesan
staff were paid the wage, however.
Lambeth Palace and Bishopthorpe both pay the Living Wageto all
directly employed and subcontracted staff, and cleaning staff at
Church House have been paid the London Living Wage, currently £8.80
per hour, since April.
In an answer to a question at the General Synod last November,
Philip Fletcher, who chairs the Mission and Public Affairs Council,
told members that, by 2016, all staff at the Church's Hyde Park
Estate would also be paid the London Living Wage.
Several other C of E organisations have also joined the Living
Wage campaign. The Church Army is now an accredited Living Wage
Employer, after its chief executive, Mark Russell, found out that
some of its cleaners and subcontracted staff were poorly paid. Mr
Russell said that it was a question of putting the Army's money
where its theology was.
Ely Cathedral took a £50,000 gamble in signing up to the Wage,
as it employs up to 100 staff, including some on low pay in cafés
and shops. The Canon Missioner, the Revd Alan Hargrave, said that
the decision was taken to phase in payment of the Living Wage over
five years, at a cost of £50,000, even though the cathedral was
only just breaking even.
Much of the Church has now signed up to the Living Wage, but
many dioceses did not need to increase their salary levels to
ensure that all staff received the Living Wage. One diocese,
Hereford, had lifted the pay of a part-time cleaner from the
minimum wage (currently £6.31 per hour) to the Living Wage, but
many others said that, when they checked, they discovered that all
their employees were already paid well above the rate.
Research by KPMG, however, suggests that at least five million
workers are still paid less than the Living Wage - which, the
Institute of Fiscal Studies says, costs the taxpayer about £6
billion a year in benefits and forgone taxes.
In more than 4600 church schools and 16,000 parish churches,
there is a large number of people who work under the C of E name,
but not for dioceses or national church institutions. Each PCC and
school is legally independent of the Church; so it is not known how
many staff are not paid the Living Wage; nor is it clear whether
there is any way in which paying the wage could be imposed on them
if that was desired. A spokesman for theC of E declined to comment
on the notion of expanding the Living Wage beyond the church
institutions mentioned in the 2012 Synod motion.
Some other denominations have made steps in that direction.
Since 2010, all Methodist churches and organisations have been
required to pay the Living Wage, unless they have applied for an
exemption on the basis that it would be economically unviable.
The public-policy adviser to the Methodist Church, Paul
Morrison, said that the Church had adopted it not just because it
believed in it, but because it wanted the concept to spread further
in society. "The idea that somebody is worth more than what the
market will pay, that human labour is different from any other
commodity - that is deeply important."
The Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference for England and Wales and
all other British RC institutions are accredited Living Wage
employers. A spokeswoman for the RC Church said that the Catholic
Education Service promoted the wage through all its schools last
year, but they did not have any statistics on the number of schools
that had signed up.
The Church of Scotland urged the raising of the minimum wageto
the Living Wage at its General Assembly in 2012, and all
congregations and agencies of the Church have been told to pay the
wage by 2015. A spokesman said that three of its four central
bodies also already paid the Living Wage.
Others have a more mixed record. The diocese of St Asaph has
formally adopted the Living Wage, and the Church in Wales is
currently consulting on a Living Wage policy agreed in principle
A motion at the General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church
last year endorsed the Living Wage, and "encouraged" all
congregations to pay it. A spokeswoman confirmed that all
provincial staff in the Church are paid the wage.
The Baptist Assembly passed a resolution in 2008 urging churches
to give "careful consideration" to the idea of paying the Living
Wage, but a spokeswoman said that the Baptist Union did not know
how many churches had responded.
All staff at the United Reformed Church's Church House are paid
the Living Wage, and their General Assembly also endorsed the
concept in 2008. But a spokeswoman said that the Church had no
means by which it could require local churches to pay the wage.
Living Wage activists said that, in general, churches in the UK
had been helpful allies in their campaign. The Revd Paul Regan, a
Methodist minister and a member of the Living Wage Foundation's
advisory council, said: "It has been taken up pretty well [by
churches]. Many of them are often concerned with food poverty or
homelessness, and this is a very positive way of trying to counter
such stuff. It's they who can keep an eye on this, and make the
moral case to the market."
One campaigner, Tom Skinner, of the Greater Manchester Living
Wage Campaign, said that Christians did not require much persuading
to join the battle: "Generally, I think churches are supportive.
Allowing people to live their lives to the full is an integral part
of Jesus's message. I have never had to work that hard to convince
"But in terms of rolling it out to all the churches and schools
- that is a much harder job. I think there are hundreds of
employers, like churches and schools, who are not paying the Living
Wage to all of their staff; so there is an enormous amount still to
The challenge of raising the wages of the unknown number of
church-school or parish employees who are paid less than £7.65 an
hour is still considerable. Alongside this task is the part that
the Church plays in advocating the benefits of the Living Wage to
businesses and the Government.
But, with at least 34 dioceses on board, as well as every
denomination in principle, the aim of lifting one million more
people out of poverty through higher pay, as proposed by the
Archbishop of York's Living Wage Commission this week, seems more
Dr Sentamu: Raise more workers' pay
by Tim Wyatt
ONE million more workers should have their pay raised to
the Living Wage by 2020, a commission chaired by the Archbishop of
York, Dr Sentamu, has said.
The final report by the Living Wage Commission, released
on Tuesday, recommends that the Government make it a stated goal to
increase the take-up of the Living Wage - currently £7.65 per hour
- by one million more employees in the next six years.
The report describes this as "a bold yet credible step
that will not result in an overall reduction in demand for labour,
but will significantly improve the lives and well-being of a
substantial number of people".
"Is it right somebody should work all the hours that God
gives them, and still be in poverty? That cannot be right," Dr
Sentamu told the BBC. "Working and still living in poverty is a
national scandal. If the Government now commits to making this hope
a reality, we can take a major step towards ending the strain on
all of our consciences."
The report also recommends that the Government should
pay all public-sector workers the Living Wage, but does not go as
far as calling for the Wage to become legally binding. Research by
the National Institute for Economic and Social Research suggested
that up to 160,000 jobs could be lost if the minimum wage,
currently £6.31 an hour, was raised to the Living
An analysis by the consultancy Landman Economics
suggests that the UK could receive an extra £4.2 billion in
increased tax revenue and reduced spending on tax credits if the
Living Wage is rolled out further and faster.
The debt-counselling charity Christians Against Poverty
said that it welcomed the Commission's findings. In a statement on
Tuesday, its chief executive, Matt Barlow, said: "We wholeheartedly
agree with the Commission's analysis. Employers have a duty of care
to their staff, and, by treating them respectfully and fairly,
enjoy a more loyal and motivated workforce."
Responding to the report for the Government, the
Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said: "The only real way of
achieving sustainable increases in living standards is by focusing
on economic growth, employment, and reducing taxes for the
low-paid. This is exactly what we are doing."