by Tim Wyatt
THE Church of England has defended its stance on the Living Wage after it was revealed that cathedrals and churches were hiring staff on salaries below the benchmark.
An investigation by The Sun found that Canterbury Cathedral was advertising for porters and kiosk assistants on salaries between £6.70 and £7.75 an hour. The Living Wage (outside London) is currently set at £7.85.
Lichfield Cathedral was also revealed to be hiring waiting staff on £6.50 an hour, which is the national minimum wage. A church in Pickering, North Yorkshire – St Peter and St Paul – was hiring a pastoral worker for £7.65 an hour.
In a statement today, a C of E spokesman said that every parish, diocese, and cathedral in the Church was a separate legal entity, and had to formulate its own hiring policies. “As charities, churches require time to increase giving levels prior to ensuring delivery of the Living Wage.”
Several Conservative MPs have accused the Church of hypocrisy, because the pastoral letter sent from the House of Bishops to the C of E last week about the General Election in May had endorsed the Living Wage (News, 20 February). The Church’s statement, however, said that last year’s Living Wage Commission, which was chaired by the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, recommended phased implementation of the Wage.
“The vast majority of those employed by, or sub-contracted to the Church’s central institutions are already paid at least the Living Wage, and all will be by April 2017,” the statement also said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was questioned about the story by reporters during a visit to Birmingham today. He admitted that the revelations had kept him up the previous night, and said that it would be “great” if every part of the C of E was paying the Living Wage, but that this would take some time.
“Every cathedral, every diocese, every parish in this country is an independent charity with its own trustees that has to make its own decisions. We all recognise that no employer can simply increase its salaries overnight. . . We’re getting there as quickly as we can.”
Canterbury Cathedral said in a statement that it was “fully committed” to introducing the Living Wage for all staff but said “current economic conditions” were stopping it from doing so.
“We have, for example, to balance any wage increases against the huge cost of repairs to the building and the large amount of repair work that is required. However, all staff at Canterbury Cathedral will receive the Living Wage by 2018.”
A Church Times investigation last year found that almost every diocese in the C of E was already paying its directly employed staff at least the Living Wage (News, 27 June). A deal brokered between the trade union Unison, and the National Society, in September, will lead to every church school’s becoming accredited Living Wage employers (News, 19 September).