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Archbishop embarrassed by Cathedral’s living wage blunder

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted “embarrassment” over revelations that Canterbury Cathedral is offering jobs paying barely over the minimum wage. The Most Reverend Justin Welby waded into political debate last week by demanding a living wage for all workers of at least £7.85 per hour.

But critics have since accused the primate of hypocrisy after it emerged the Cathedral is recruiting for two kiosk assistants at just £6.70 per hour – 20p more than the £6.50 minimum required by law. The Archbishop said:

“It’s embarrassing, of course, I won’t say otherwise. But in the light of transparency, which I welcome, I will say we are a complex institution and every parish church and cathedral is an independent charity, as is every diocese.”

Mr Welby said change to a living wage would come “gradually”, because each of the independent charities lacked the resources to move more quickly. He added:

“As charities they have to do that gradually. You’ll see that – and you’ll see the accusations of hypocrisy, but make up your own mind as to what it is.”

A letter from the House of Bishops, published last week, called for “new direction” in politics to replace a society that it said was self-interested, fragmented and badly-led by politicians. Referring to “in-work poverty”, the letter read: “We have seen the burgeoning of in-work poverty – people cannot earn enough to live decently.

“This is why the Church of England has backed the concept of the Living Wage – an agreement with employers to ensure that all their staff earn a modest hourly rate that is sufficient for a full time worker to live decently.”

The Church insisted that the letter was meant to counter the message – promoted by comedian Russell Brand – that taking part in politics is pointless. Bishops claimed their intention was not to tell people how to vote.

Today, however, The Sun newspaper has revealed that the Church of England is offering vacancies paying as little as £6.50 – including Canterbury Cathedral’s two kiosk vacancies. Tory MP Charlie Elphicke chided the Church, saying:

“It’s astonishing that the Church of England can call for the Living Wage to be paid by employers but don’t pay it themselves.”

Canterbury Cathedral has said that it is committed to introducing the Living Wage when ‘economically feasible’ and said ‘well over half’ of the staff were paid at least the Living Wage. The blunder comes two years after the Archbishop vowed to put payday lenders out of business – only to later discover that the Church of England’s pension fund had links to Wonga.

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