[ACNS] An increase of 50 pence per hour in the national minimum wage that employers in the UK must pay their workers has been welcomed by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. But while welcoming the increase, Dr Sentamu has criticised the British finance minister, George Osborne, for branding the increase as a new Living Wage.
The government’s new “National Living Wage” came into effect on Friday (1 April); and requires employers to pay employees over the age of 25 a minimum of £7.20 per hour. Employees aged between 21 and 25 will continue to receive the previous minimum wage of £6.70 per hour.
Dr Sentamu used to chair the Living Wage Commission, which, with its campaigning arm the Living Wage Foundation, has been calling on employers to go beyond the legal minimum wage and to instead pay their workers a living wage of £8.25 per hour in most of the UK, and £9.40 in London, because of the higher cost of living in the Capital.
To coincide with the introduction of the new national minimum wage for over 25s, Dr Sentamu has written an article in The Times newspaper, in which he criticises the language used by the government in branding the new minimum as a National Living Wage.
“Of course it is to be welcomed that Mr Osborne is increasing wages at the bottom level for over 25s,” Dr Sentamu wrote. “But let’s call it what it is: a new legal minimum wage for over 25s. It is not a living wage in any real sense; it is not paying workers what they deserve and it is not paying workers what they need in order to achieve a decent standard of living in the UK.
“The real Living Wage is set according to what experts and the public believe is needed to achieve an above-poverty standard of living. Not earning this can mean having to rely on a food bank even if you are in work. Let’s think about that for a second. Working people should not have to rely on food banks to feed their families.
“The new minimum wage also risks setting young against old. There are two million under 25’s who will not benefit from the increased minimum wage. The real Living Wage (as set by the Living Wage Foundation) makes no distinction for how old someone has to be to expect to be paid fairly for a day’s work.”
Dr Sentamu said that “the Christian faith makes a strong moral argument for paying the Living Wage” and that there was also a financial argument – because those companies who pay the Living Wage “report higher levels of morale and lower levels of absenteeism.”
He concluded: “Paying the Living Wage is a fast route to the kind of society the UK could become, a country where people are paid a fair day’s wage for a hard day’s work.”