Views from the Pews: Plea for a sensible living wage

Archbishop Sentama Visited St. Oswalds Church Lythe last Sunday was entertained by Lythe School drumming group and took part himself to the delight of all there. Picture Kathryn Bulmer.
Archbishop Sentama Visited St. Oswalds Church Lythe last Sunday was entertained by Lythe School drumming group and took part himself to the delight of all there. Picture Kathryn Bulmer.

Rewarding a hard day’s work with a fair day’s pay seems like a sensible enough suggestion, but years of stagnant, and even falling wages, in a whole host of job areas including manufacturing, the public sector and construction has seen the reality of this phrase become far from the norm for millions of workers across the UK.

Figures released today show that more than six million workers earn less than the Living Wage.

Archbishop Sentama Visited St. Oswalds Church Lythe last Sunday. Picture Kathryn Bulmer.

Archbishop Sentama Visited St. Oswalds Church Lythe last Sunday. Picture Kathryn Bulmer.

So whilst unemployment may be falling, and some wages rising, the picture in the homes of workers across the country isn’t as bright as we may be led to believe from headlines alone.

Wages have been stubbornly clinging to the legal floor around the minimum wage for far too long, and whilst the intervention of the Chancellor in the summer budget will see a welcome increase in minimum wage rates for the over 25s in April, with continued increases until at least 2020, there’s still room for many businesses that can, to go further still, and pay their staff a wage that reflects the real cost of living in the UK.

Tomorrow the new Living Wage rates will be announced. Accredited Living Wage employers are responsible employers.

We must celebrate and champion these businesses, they aren’t waiting for Government to tell them what to do, they are voluntarily paying their staff at a rate that’s calculated independently and based on the cost of living today.

As a Christian I’m often asked to explain the moral case for paying the Living Wage and why we should take seriously these words of Jesus Christ: “The worker deserves their wages.” He treated people with respect, and we must do the same.

Yet it would be naive of me to expect businesses to simply follow their hearts; the beauty of the Living Wage is that whilst it is rooted in the social teachings of many religions, it also makes good business sense.

When the Living Wage is introduced by employers, everyone gains. Morale goes up. When work feels worthwhile because it’s more than a drudge, its quality improves. Raising pay to a living wage would boost the economy by stepping up workers’ spending power.

They would also be paying more tax, putting more money into the pot for health and education. Doing what is right also pays incalculable dividends.