UNISON, the UK's largest education union, and the National Society, which promotes and resources Church of England schools, have reached a landmark agreement that paves the way for all Church of England schools to gain Living Wage accreditation.
The Church of England’s nearly 4,700 schools are committed to paying the living wage but this new implementation plan will provide the means for all support staff to receive it by turning the schools into Living Wage employers*. The schools are being given a step-by-step implementation plan produced by the union, covering both directly employed and contracted out staff to help them win Living Wage accreditation.
The agreement follows a motion that was passed by the General Synod, which recognised that 'the widening gap between rich and poor harms all of society and that paying a Living Wage lifts people out of poverty'. It agreed to strongly encourage all Church of England institutions to pay at least the Living Wage, as recommended by Church Action on Poverty.
This year, UNISON's evidence to the Low Pay Commission included testimonies from low paid workers across the country, highlighting the misery and stress on millions of families struggling to cope on poverty wages – which the Living Wage would go some way to addressing.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, Chair of the Living Wage Commission said: “Church of England schools were set up more than 200 years ago to serve the poor and marginalized and they have always been committed to treating staff and pupils fairly. This new agreement with UNISON will reward schools with Living Wage accreditation for their commitment to treating staff fairly. It is an excellent initiative.”
Dave Prentis, General Secretary of UNISON said:
"I am delighted that UNISON is working so closely with the National Society to encourage Church of England schools to pay the living wage. Times are tough and low paid workers are struggling under the burden of rising prices for basics like food and fuel.
"Schools and heads are under a lot of pressure and that is why UNISON wants to make it easier for them to win Living Wage accreditation by producing a step-by-step guide. Having that accreditation sends out a strong message that this school is one that takes its responsibilities to its staff and the wider community seriously."
Nigel Genders, Chief Education Officer at the National Society, said:
“Church of England schools are absolutely committed to their important role at the centre of local communities. Given the Church of England’s commitment to the Living Wage, I’m delighted that we are able to recommend the step-by-step implementation plan to help schools win Living Wage accreditation.
"In signing up to this commitment, schools are taking a clear stand against poverty, and setting a very public example for their pupils about how people should be treated.”
Notes to Editors:
*The Living Wage is £7.65 and £8.80 in London