Senior archbishop says low British wages are a 'national scandal'

(Photo: REUTERS / Toby Melville)Justin Welby (L), the new Archbishop of Canterbury, listens as the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu (R) speaks during the ceremony to confirm Welby's election as Archbishop, at St Paul's Cathedral in central London February 4, 2013. The ceremony, known as the Confirmation of Election, forms part of the legal process by which Welby replaces his predecessor, Rowan Williams, as Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has condemned the low levels of pay millions of Britons receive as a "national scandal," criticising the government and business leaders for allowing the situation to continue.

Sentamu is to chair a 12 month independent commission in Britain on the feasibility of replacing the national minimum wage with a "Living Wage."

"The scale of low pay in Britain is a national scandal. Come pay day, nearly five million people in this country won't have been paid at a rate high enough to live on. Just think about that," the Anglcian cleric wrote in the UK Sunday newspaper, The Observer, on July 21.

The commission the archbishop will head was set up by the center-left thinktank Compass, which has funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. It will bring together leading figures from business, voluntary organizations, trade unions and academia.

"So far, all governments have been merely applying a sticking plaster to the crisis of low pay," said the archbishop.

Sentamu, who is the second most senior cleric in the Church of England to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, noted that the majority of low-paid workers in Britain are women.

He said that low pay threatens immense strides made in gender equality in recent times as it "undermines women's economic independence" creating a massive for females and for the whole of society.

"Nearly five million people give their time, their skills and their energy to perform jobs – many of which we all depend on – but don't get paid enough by their employers to even get by.

"That means not enough money to heat their homes, or feed their families, or plan for a rainy day," the Ugandan-born archbishop wrote.

He argued that by chasing quite profits and in the rush for high pay by top officials, "too many companies" had forgotten "the basic moral imperative that employees be paid enough to live on."

Sentamu said the matter could be rectified by the establishment of the "Living Wage" set to ensure "a basic but acceptable standard of living."

He said that over the past 10 years workers, trade unionists and campaigners at Citizens UK and the Living Wage Foundation had moved the idea it into mainstream policy debates in the British Parliament.

"Because of their tireless efforts, 284 businesses have adopted the living wage, which is currently set at £8.55 ($13.1) an hour in London and £7.45 throughout the rest of the UK (The minimum wage required by law is £6.19.)," said Sentamu.

The archbishop took a swipe at the British prime minister when he said, "David Cameron has described it [the living wage] as a good and attractive idea. I agree.

"Of course, at the end of the day, though, what workers really need is pay, not platitudes. The reality is that despite these warm words, too few companies have stepped up to the mark."Bri

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