Only a national living wage will help Britainís poorí, says Archbishop

Thousands of Britainís low income workers will be unable to enjoy the positive effects of the countryís recent economic upturn unless a national living wage is implemented, the Archbishop of York has said.

John Sentamu, Yorkís senior church official, identified that the slow growth in worker wages at a time where the cost of living essentials is soaring has meant that workers are experiencing a ëdouble squeezeí, and has called for a concrete living wage to be enacted in order to help low earners bring their finances back into order.

The living wage is currently set at £8.80 an hour in London and £7.65 in the rest of the UK, and is determined in accordance to financial data about the basic cost of living in the UK. Currently, employers are not legally obliged to include it within their payment structures, which has meant that only a handful of workplaces have the living wage in place.

And Mr Sentamu has called for business heads to ëdo the right thingí and voluntary introduce a living wage at the expense of tighter profit margins so that the poorest have a financial foot to stand on moving forward in the future.

ëDo the right thingí
The Archbishop made his remarks during an independent commission, that was tasked with formulating ideas about how the current ëcost of living crisisí, should be addressed.

The commission identified that over 5 million people in the UK currently receive a basic salary that is under the living wage, though they did positively comment that the quantity of those receiving the living wage had risen by almost 10%, or 420,000, in the last year alone.

And Mr Sentamu has called for more employers to adopt the payment scheme this year so that the countryís poor can begin to experience the positive effects that they should be following the countryís recent economic improvement.

The Archbishop did concede that adopting the living wage would have a short term detrimental effect on many businesses finances, but called on bosses to do the ëright thingí, and prioritise the condition of the poor over profit gains.

“The idea of making work pay is an empty slogan to millions of people who are hard pressed and working hard, but find themselves in a downward social spiral,” Archbishop Sentamu said.

“They are often in two or three jobs just to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the UK taxpayer picks up the bill in tax credits, in-work benefits and decreased demand in the economy.

“With the economy showing signs of recovery, employers that can pay a living wage must do so. They should choose between continuing to make gains on the back of poverty wages, or doing the right thing and paying a fair wage for a hard day’s work.”

ëEase financial pressureí
The cause of the Archbishops recommendations was based on the presiding commissions study of the costs of consumer goods, which found that the costs of living essentials has risen at a faster rate than wages for over six year now.

Food costs were identified to have risen by almost 45% since 2005, whilst fuel prices were found to have almost doubled in the same period.

The study also highlighted that children of families who have a low income have less chance of excelling at school, whilst a worker who is currently receiving the living wage has far more time to themselves than someone who earns the minimum wage.

The Archbishopís calls have found support from Trade Union Congress general Secretary Frances OíGrady, who said adopting a national living wage would be an excellent measure to ëease pressureí on the UKís lowest paid.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The UK economy may be in recovery mode, but most people’s pay packets have yet to experience a similar revival. For those families firmly stuck in low-pay Britain, life is tough, and they continue to struggle to make their wages stretch far enough to meet the cost of food, fuel and other essentials.

“One way of easing the financial pressures on low-paid families would be for more employers to pay the living wage.”
Meanwhile, John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, issued lukewarm support for the Archbishops proposals, but argued that the adoption of the living wage should be a slower and more calculated process, rather than being radically implemented anytime sooner.

Mr Longworth argued that whilst 60% of businesses were in support of increasing the minimum wage that many more were against adopting a living wage at this time because they are not yet financially prepared to foot the higher payment costs at this time.

Mr Longworth said: “Making ends meet is clearly an issue of huge concern to many in Britain today, and we applaud all of those businesses that pay, or aspire to pay, their staff above the living wage.

“Yet many businesses tell us that there is a limit to what they can afford. Sixty percent of companies say that at present, the national minimum wage should rise – but by no more than inflation, so as to avoid pressure to raise pay across all levels of a business.

“Prudent rises in the minimum wage, and praise for those businesses that aspire to a living wage, is the right way to preserve jobs.

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