Church of England: Justin Welby says low pay 'embarrassing'

media captionThe Most Reverend Justin Welby: "It's embarrassing... no institution is perfect"

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said it is "embarrassing" that the Church of England pays some staff less than the living wage, despite calling on employers to pay at least that amount.

That wage, calculated from the basic cost of UK life, is currently £7.85 an hour outside London.

Earlier, the Sun newspaper reported a Church job advertised at £6.50 an hour.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby said the Church was "getting there as quickly as we can".

The Church said each parish, diocese and cathedral was a separate legal entity which made its own decisions.

'Moving aggressively'

According to the Sun, Canterbury Cathedral advertised for a kiosk assistant to be paid £6.70 an hour. The £6.50 advertisement was for "waiting-on staff" at Lichfield Cathedral.

Archbishop Welby said the situation was "something we don't like".

He added: "Canterbury is moving very, very aggressively towards paying the living wage as soon as it can.

"It means raising more than an extra £200,000 a year. It's a charity. Money can't be magicked overnight.

"And the Living Wage Commission, which Archbishop Sentamu headed, said that everyone had to move towards the living wage.

"He recognised, and we all recognise, that no employer can simply increase its salary overnight. It's embarrassing. We'd prefer to be there."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionCanterbury Cathedral is said to be moving 'aggressively' towards paying the living wage

Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke told the Sun: "It's astonishing that the Church of England can call for the living wage to be paid by employers but don't pay it themselves."

In a letter to all Church members last week, the House of Bishops said it backed the living wage, which ensured people earned enough to "live decently".

"It represents the basic principle that people are not commodities and that their lives cannot adapt infinitely in response to market pressures," the letter added.

The Church of England said in a statement: "The Living Wage Commission, chaired by the Archbishop of York, recognised in its report last year, that a phased implementation may be necessary in some businesses and organisations.

"It welcomed employers seeking to implement the pay level progressively. What is important is that those who can do so, as soon as is practically possible.

"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.

"Each of our 12,000 parishes, dioceses and cathedrals is a separate legal entity with trustees and has to act in the light of its own circumstances. As charities, churches require time to increase giving levels prior to ensuring delivery of the living wage."

BBC religious affairs correspondent Caroline Wyatt said: "We have probably not seen the end of this spat between politicians and the bishops".

The Living Wage Foundation says the hourly rate, revised yearly, is "calculated according to the basic cost of living in the UK".

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