Church of England accused of double standards over low wages

by Reuters
Monday, 23 February 2015 14:02 GMT

* Sun newspaper some cathedral jobs pay below living wage

* Church has urged British employers to pay workers more

* Archbishop says no employer can ramp up wages overnight

LONDON, Feb 23 (Reuters) - The Church of England was accused of double standards by a newspaper and lawmakers on Monday for offering jobs in cathedrals at lower wages than those it has called on other British employers to pay their workers.

Under the banner headline "Wages of Sin", the Sun reported that it had found several advertisements for jobs in cathedrals that offered pay well below the "living wage" of 7.85 pounds ($12) an hour, endorsed by the Church and senior politicians.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the Church recognised that no employer could ramp up wages overnight, and was working hard to get to a point where it was paying all of its workers the living wage.

"It's embarrassing. We'd prefer to be there. We're getting there as quickly as we can," Welby, the spiritual head of the 80-million strong Anglican communion, told the BBC.

"It's not the only area where we fall short of our own standards. We work on it as hard as we can," he said.

The report comes days after Anglican bishops published an open letter in which they criticised Britain's "almost moribund political culture" ahead of a national election due on May 7.

The letter, in which the bishops commented on a number of political issues including government welfare reforms, annoyed some politicians and prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to defend the changes.

Among other recommendations, the bishops voiced support for the living wage, calculated by campaign group the Living Wage Foundation, at 7.85 pounds per hour for workers outside London and 9.15 pounds for those in London. Britain has a government-set national minimum wage of 6.50 pounds per hour.

The Sun cited advertisements for a kiosk assistant at Canterbury Cathedral at 6.70 pounds an hour, and for staff at Lichfield Cathedral at 6.50 pounds an hour, among other jobs being advertised at below the living wage.

"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," Conservative member of parliament Charlie Elphicke told the Sun.

It is not the first time since Welby became Archbishop two years ago that the Church has been accused of not practising what it preaches.

Last year, it criticised payday lender Wonga before the press revealed that it had funds invested in the firm. The Church severed its ties with Wonga last July. (Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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