THE UK economy “is not in great shape”, but fresh commitments to the real Living Wage could be the good news that the country is looking for, the Archbishop of York has said.
Writing in the Yorkshire Post on Tuesday, during Living Wage Week, Archbishop Cottrell says that “the heavy rain of bad news has felt pretty relentless these past few months. Doubly disconcerting is that whether it’s because of decisions made in the corridors of Whitehall, or in seismic global events like pandemics and war — the roots of our woes lie largely beyond the control of ordinary people in Yorkshire. But, like sunshine after rain, good news does come. And, at the start of Living Wage week, I’m reminded that we are not powerless in the face of all earthly suffering.”
He quotes new research from the Living Wage Foundation and the Smith Institute this week, which found that, if the wages of 368,000 low-paid workers in Yorkshire were raised from the national living wage of £9.50 (which UK employers are bound by law to pay) to the real Living Wage of £10.90 per hour, the local economy would be boosted by £165 million.
“It is this pay-back into the local economy which means that money spent on raising the wages of the poorest is one way to promote growth and not just to stoke inflation,” Archbishop Cottrell writes.
Currently, more than 11,000 employers have signed up to pay the real Living Wage, of whom 550 are based in Yorkshire. Archbishop Cottrell says that staff would be nearly £3000 a year better off than those earning the legal minimum.
“In a cost-of-living crisis, what an astounding difference that figure would make to individuals and families.”
Reports this week suggested that the Prime Minister could increase the national living wage in the UK by nearly ten per cent, from £9.50 per hour to £10.40, in the budget on Thursday. This would be just 50p short of the real Living Wage.
Archbishop Cottrell continued: “Inflation is soaring, mortgage rates and rents are rising. While none of us — including businesses — can escape the squeeze on our incomes, its impact on the 3.5 million British workers who are paid less than the real Living Wage is utterly devastating.”
He concluded: “A real Living Wage is a promise — a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work. That enshrines the values of compassion, dignity, and justice in action. . . The Church of England, across its 19,000 buildings and various organisations, may still have some way to go, but I make this challenge to myself as well as to all of us. I believe it is now vital for those who have not yet accredited with the Living Wage Foundation and are in the position to do so, to act quickly.”