An overwhelming vote of the Church of England's General Synod has today (21 November 2012) backed a Living Wage for its own workers and for all others.
The decision followed a debate led by John Freeman, a member of the ecumenical Church Action on Poverty, which has been campaigning since 2002 for churches to set an example to other employers by paying the Living Wage.
The vote also comes after last week's similar decision by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, and the commitment of other national Christian denominations in Britain.
Advocates for labour rights and social justice have welcomed the move, and commentators have noted that it marks a 'return to reality' for the embattled Church after its much-condemned failure to endorse women bishops yesterday (20 November).
The motion was carried with no votes against, after an hour-long debate which include contributions from the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.
It was supported by the Archbishop of Canterbury elect, Bishop Justin Welby, who last week reiterated his support for the Living Wage and said it is something “we should be shouting about”.
The 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 it was £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. This takes into account top-up benefits and credits, which are often not enough to keep people out of poverty.
Alan Thornton, Church Action on Poverty's Campaigns Officer, commented: “After 10 years working with churches to support the Living Wage, we have now persuaded all Christian denominations to publicly support the principle. It is a great encouragement to the Living Wage movement that two large institutions like the Catholic Church in England and Wales and the Church of England have backed the Living Wage within the past week.”
Politicians as diverse as Conservative London mayor Boris Johnson, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond have all endorsed the Living Wage in the last year.
As well as 35 councils, 12 universities, and four hospitals in the public sector, a range of private sector companies are already accredited Living Wage employers. These include Barclays, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Lloyds of London, KPMG and Lush.
* Church of England paper on the Living Wage (*.PDF Adobe Acrobat document): www.churchofengland.org/media/1571687/gs%201882a%20-%20living%20wage%20p...
* 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's Living Wage briefing: www.church-poverty.org.uk/livingwage/livingwagebriefing2012