THE Church of England's record on the Living Wage has been
defended, after journalists found cathedrals that were hiring staff
on salaries below the benchmark.
An investigation by The Sun found that Canterbury
Cathedral was advertising for porters and kiosk assistants on
salaries between £6.70 and £7.75 an hour. The Living Wage (outside
London) is currently set at £7.85.
Lichfield Cathedral was also said to be hiring waiting staff on
£6.50 an hour, the national minimum wage, not the Living Wage.
In a statement on Monday, a C of E spokesman said that every
parish, diocese, and cathedral was a separate legal entity, and had
to formulate its own hiring policies. "As charities, churches
require time to increase giving levels prior to ensuring delivery
of the Living Wage."
Several Conservative MPs have accused the Church of hypocrisy
because the House of Bishops pastoral letter about the General
Election, issued last week, endorses the Living Wage (News, 20
February). The church spokesman said on Monday that last year's
Living Wage Commission, chaired by the Archbishop of York,
recommended phased implementation of the Wage.
"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," the statement also
The Archbishop of Canterbury was questioned about the story by
reporters during a visit to Birmingham on Monday. He said that the
revelations had kept him up the previous night. It would be "great"
if every part of the C of E was paying the Living Wage, but this
would take some time.
"We all recognise that no employer can simply increase its
salaries overnight. . . We're getting there as quickly as we
Speaking on the Church of England's weekly podcast on Thursday,
the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, said the Church should
actually be grateful to The Sun for highlighting the issue.
"That has allowed us to get it on to the news agenda, which
means more people are convinced it is a good thing. In a sense we
owe a debt of gratitude to The Sun. We can say 'Yes, we are moving
towards the Living Wage, the vast majority of Church bodies are
already paying the Living Wage'."
Canterbury Cathedral responded to criticism that it was "fully
committed" to introducing the Living Wage for all staff, but said
that "current economic conditions" were stopping it from doing
"We have, for example, to balance any wage increases against the
huge cost of repairs to the building and the large amount of repair
work that is required. However, all staff at Canterbury Cathedral
will receive the Living Wage by 2018."
A Church Times investigation last year found that
almost every diocese in the C of E was already paying its directly
employed staff at least the Living Wage (News,
27 June). Of the 34 diocese that replied to questions, all 34
confirmed that its directly employed staff were being paid at least
£7.85 per hour.
A number, including York and Manchester, were considering
extending the Wage to all sub-contracted staff as well. The diocese
of Chelmsford has made paying the Living Wage a condition of
receiving a grant.
Ely Cathedral employs about 100 people, including several in
low-pay positions in cafés and shops. Last year, its Canon
Missioner, the Revd Dr Alan Hargrave, said that the Living Wage
would be phased in over five years at the cost of £50,000, even
though the cathedral was only just breaking even.
A deal brokered between the trade union Unison and the National
Society in September will lead every church school to become an
accredited Living Wage employer (News, 19
Other denominations have endorsed the concept of the Living
Wage. Since 2010, all Methodist churches and organisations have
been required to pay the Living Wage, unless they have applied for
an exemption on the grounds it would be economically unviable. The
Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference for England and Wales is an
accredited Living Wage employer, and all RC schools are encouraged
to pay it.
Question of the week: Is the Church being too slow to
introduce the Living Wage?