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Archbishop of York welcomes rise in ‘real living wage’

11 November 2020


Archbishop Cottrell said that hundreds of thousands of key workers, such as carers, are only paid the minimum wage

Archbishop Cottrell said that hundreds of thousands of key workers, such as carers, are only paid the minimum wage

THE Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, has welcomed the rise in the “real living wage” this week, urging employers to join the voluntary movement to “end the scourge of low pay and level up communities”.

The real living wage is calculated annually by the Living Wage Foundation, based on current living costs, including household goods and services. On Monday, the campaign announced that the rate per hour for 2020/21 would increase to £9.50 in the UK, and £10.85 in London. Last year it was £9.30 and £10.75 respectively.

Currently, 7000 businesses choose to pay their employees this wage. It is separate from the minimum wage, for under-25s, and national living wage, for over-25s, both statutory, and currently set by the Government at £8.30 and £8.72 respectively.

Archbishop Cottrell wrote in the Yorkshire Post on Monday that the “shared sense of humanity” brought about by the pandemic, particularly clapping for key workers and the NHS, was what the real living wage was about.

“That applause overflowed into action,” he wrote. “Churches and other places of worship had to close. But the food banks they run were busier than ever. Hundreds of thousands volunteered for the NHS and mutual aid schemes sprung up spontaneously across the country. Homeless people were housed in hotels. This same sense of our shared humanity is what the real Living Wage is all about.”

Since 2011, the real living wage has paid an extra £1.3 billion to low-paid workers, £800 million of which has gone to people in key worker industries. More than 250,000 low-paid workers will benefit from the latest increase.

“At a time when so many employers and workers are struggling, it is heartening to hear this,” the Archbishop continued. “I am hopeful that even more employers will now join this growing movement to end the scourge of low pay and level up communities, and enable all workers to meet their everyday needs. . . But we must not rest on our laurels. Even as we celebrate, far too many key workers remain underpaid, overworked, and poorly protected.”

More than 300 NHS and care workers had died as a result of Covid-19, he said, and supermarket and other key workers remained at risk.

He concluded: “Even now, cleaners aren’t considered key workers by official government definitions. Hundreds of thousands of key workers are only paid the minimum wage for caring for our elderly and vulnerable. That’s why I, along with others, am backing the campaign to invest in a real living wage for care workers as a next important step.”

The director of the Living Wage Foundation, Laura Gardiner, said: “It’s an incredibly challenging time for us all, but today’s new living-wage rates will give a boost to hundreds of thousands of UK workers, including thousands of key and essential workers like cleaners, care workers, and delivery drivers who have kept our economy going.

“Since the start of the pandemic, employers have continued to sign up to a real living wage. During Living Wage Week, it’s right that we celebrate those employers that have done right by workers and families, providing them with much needed security and stability even when times are hard. These are the employers that will allow us to recover and rebuild from this crisis.”

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Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
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