Over those past ten years the campaign for a Living Wage has gathered momentum. Last week saw the first ever Living Wage Week – backed by senior politicians from left and right. According to the Living Wage Foundation, more than 45,000 families have been lifted out of poverty as a result.
As far back as 2002, Church Action on Poverty launched its own Living Wage Church campaign, calling on all denominations to sign up to pay a Living Wage. Ten years on, at least five major Christian denominations have signed up nationally as Living Wage employers – including the Methodists, Baptists, Quakers, Church of Scotland and United Reformed Church, as well as the Church Army and numerous other Christian organisations. But sadly, up to now the Church of England is not among them.
On Wednesday (21 November) the Church of England has a chance to put that right.
General Synod is due to debate a motion tabled by Church Action on Poverty member, John Freeman, affirming the Christian values inherent in the concept of the Living Wage and strongly encouraging all Church of England institutions to pay at least the “Living Wage.
Already 133 members of General Synod have signed the motion. Last week, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, in launching the new national Living Wage rate of £7.45 an hour argued that:
“Introducing a Living Wage recognises that people should be paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work. We need to value each and every person, rather than cutting adrift those unfortunate enough to find themselves at the bottom. Paying a decent wage for our workers is a sign that as a nation – publicly, privately, corporately and individually – we recognise the unique contribution of others to the common good.”
Not to be outdone, the Archbishop of Canterbury elect, Bishop Justin Welby also came out last week as a supporter of the Living Wage. After pointing out that his current Diocese of Durham pays staff the Living Wage, Bishop Welby declared:
“[It’s] an area in which the church has really made a useful social contribution, a really useful one… it’s something we should be shouting about.”
If still in doubt about the value of the Living Wage should read the excellent contribution from Donald Hirsch, on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation blog, arguing that the Living Wage is where morality and economics meet.
So come on Church of England – its time to put your money where your mouth is. Its time for a Living Wage!