The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have committed Catholic institutions in their orbit to implementing a Living Wage for all.
The news comes ahead of a debate at the Church of England’s General Synod, its governing body, on Wednesday 21 November 2012 on whether to endorse the principle.
A meeting of the Catholic bishops in Leeds on 16 November took advice from their Diocesan Finance Secretaries to recognise “that fair wages are essential to the common good of our society”.
The Bishop of Brentwood, Thomas McMahon, has been a long-standing supporter of the Living Wage, along with the previous bishops of Wrexham and Newcastle.
Given the extent of employment by Catholic organisations and charities, it is likely that thousands of people could be affected and lifted out of ‘in-work poverty’. As such, it will be one of the largest institutions to support the Living Wage.
This the Church of England’s General Synod will debate a motion that "strongly encourages all Church of England institutions to pay at least the Living Wage”.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, will speak after his recent role unveiling the new UK figure of £7.45.
Not to be outdone, the Archbishop of Canterbury elect, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, presently Bishop of Durham, also came out last week as a supporter of the Living Wage.
After pointing out that his current diocese 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.”
Alan Thornton, Church Action on Poverty’s Campaigns Officer, commented: “Virtually every Christian denomination in the land is now committed to the principle of the Living Wage. It is a great encouragement to the Living Wage campaign and General Synod deliberations that the Catholic Bishops have emphatically backed the Living Wage."
"Since 2002 we have been working with churches to take a clear stand against poverty by adopting the Living Wage. Our work is almost done,” he added.
Politicians as diverse as the Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson, labour leader Ed Miliband and Scottish First Minsiter and SNP leder Alex Salmond have all endorsed the Living Wage in the past year.
Alongside 35 councils, 12 universities, and four hospitals in the public sector, a range of private sector companies are already accredited Living Wage employers: Barclays, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Lloyds of London, KPMG and Lush.
Campaigners intend to monitor them to ensure that they keep to their commitments. Many believe that the Living Wage should become the minimum wage across Britain.
Since 2010 all Methodist churches, districts, circuits and projects are required to pay the Living Wage. Similarly the Church of Scotland General Assembly requires congregations and agencies to pay it and urges them to make it a criterion in awarding goods and services over the value of £100,000.
Past assemblies of the United Reformed Church, Presbyterian Church of Wales and the Baptist Union of Great Britain have supported the principle of the Living Wage.
Living Wage rates for the UK and London are £7.45 and £8.55 respectively, as announced by the Living Wage Foundation and Mayor of London on 5 November 2012. Previously they were £7.20 and £8.30 respectively. This is more than the statutory national minimum wage, which is currently £6.19 (for workers aged 21) and substantially less for young people. It takes into account top-up benefits and credits, which are often not enough to keep people out of poverty.
The method for calculating the Living Wage was amended in May 2011 by the Living Wage Foundation to ensure compatibility with London. Previously the UK figure was £7.60. Because of this, Church Action on Poverty has continued to campaign for churches and other employers to pay a Living Wage of £7.60 until the new method produces a higher figure.
* Church Action on Poverty is a national ecumenical Christian social justice charity, committed to tackling poverty in the UK. www.church-poverty.org.uk
* CAP Living Wage briefing: www.church-poverty.org.uk/livingwage/livingwagebriefing2012
* Supporting paper for the Living Wage debate at the Church of England General Synod (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): www.churchofengland.org/media/1571687/gs%201882a%20-%20living%20wage%20p...