The Archbishop of Canterbury has said it is “embarrassing” that the Church of England pays some staff less than the living wage, despite calling on employers to pay at least that amount.
That wage, calculated from the basic cost of UK life, is currently £7.85 an hour outside London. Earlier, the Sun newspaper reported a Church job advertised at £6.50 an hour. The Most Reverend Justin Welby said the Church was “getting there as quickly as we can”.
The Church said each parish, diocese and cathedral was a separate legal entity which made its own decisions. According to the Sun, Canterbury Cathedral advertised for a kiosk assistant to be paid £6.70 an hour. The £6.50 advertisement was for “waiting-on staff” at Lichfield Cathedral. Archbishop Welby said the situation was “something we don’t like”. He added:
“Canterbury is moving very, very aggressively towards paying the living wage as soon as it can. It means raising more than an extra £200,000 a year. It’s a charity. Money can’t be magicked overnight. And the Living Wage Commission, which Archbishop Sentamu headed, said that everyone had to move towards the living wage. He recognised, and we all recognise, that no employer can simply increase its salary overnight. It’s embarrassing. We’d prefer to be there.”
Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke told the Sun:
“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.”
In a letter to all Church members last week, the House of Bishops said it backed the living wage, which ensured people earned enough to “live decently”. In a statement, the Church of England said it was made of independent parts but added:
“It represents the basic principle that people are not commodities and that their lives cannot adapt infinitely in response to market pressures. The vast majority of those employed by or sub-contracted to the central institutions are already paid at least the living wage and all will be by April 2017. The Diocese of Canterbury and the Pensions Board of the Church of England are committed to moving to paying the living wage and hope to be at that point within the next 2 years. As charities both institutions require time to increase giving levels prior to ensuring delivery of the living wage.”
BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt said “we have probably not seen the end of this spat between politicians and the bishops”. The Living Wage Foundation says the hourly rate, revised yearly, is “calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK”.