Archbishop of York criticises the new Living Wage

Archbishop of York criticises the new Living Wage

An article written by the Archbishop of York on the introduction of the new Living Wage challenging the new Living Wage that George Osborne has created, arguing that it is essentially an increase on the national minimum wage for over-25s and rebranded it the national living wage:

Last year, just after a certain supermarket announced their plans to pay a Living Wage, I overheard an interesting conversation in a different supermarket. The woman operating my till asked her colleague whether she would consider applying for a job with the Living Wage supermarket. She said no; she did not believe it was a real Living Wage,  they had simply found ways to dock wages elsewhere – such as no longer paying staff extra for working on a Sunday.

Like that checkout assistant, many of us remain unconvinced by Chancellor George Osborne packaging up what is essentially an increase on the National Minimum Wage for over 25s and rebranding it the “National Living Wage”. Of course it is to be welcomed that Mr Osborne is increasing wages at the bottom level for over 25s. 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.

Archbishop John Sentamu criticises UK food poverty

John Sentamu

Archbishop John Sentamu in a speech at General Synod has called for “more equitable, more caring world” and questioned the effects of government’s welfare reforms:

In a long and often angry address to the Church of England general synod on Tuesday, John Sentamu said static salaries and rising prices had left nine million people living below the breadline at a time when the chief executives of the UK’s 100 biggest companies were earning on average £4.3m – 160 times the average national wage.

Sentamu, who chairs the Living Wage Commission, said politicians needed to stop referring to “hard-working” families and recognise that they were instead “hard-pressed” families struggling to survive despite their best efforts.

“Once upon a time you couldn’t really be living in poverty if you had a regular income,” he said. “You could find yourself on a low income, yes. But that is not longer so. You can be in work and still live in poverty.”

Reports of malnutrition and food poverty in Yorkshire “disgrace us all, leaving a dark stain on our consciences”, he said. “How can it be that last year more than 27,000 people were diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition in Leeds – not Lesotho, not Liberia, not Lusaka but Leeds?”

The effects of the government’s welfare reforms, Sentamu said, were “beginning to bite – with reductions in housing benefit for so-called under-occupation of social housing, the cap on benefits for workless householders and single parents, and the gradual replacement of the disability living allowance with a personal independence payment”.

“This is the new reality,” he said, “Food banks aren’t going to go away any time soon. Prices are rising more than three times faster than wages. This has been going on for 10 years now. And for people slipping into poverty, the reality is much harsher.”

If governments were powerless to do much more than “tinker” with the current economic trends, he added, the church would find itself doing even more.

Reflecting on Christianity’s long commitment to fighting poverty – from Saint Francis of Assisi to John Wesley, and from Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian priest and father of liberation theology, to the current pope – Sentamu said the Church of England had once again found itself compelled to speak up for the poor, and urged Anglicans to follow the example of the architects of the welfare state.

“They had a clear vision as to how things could be different,” he said. “In part, they were also tapping into the spirit of the immediate postwar years in which there was a great hunger to rebuild a more equitable, more caring world. It is that vision which we need to recapture today, but remoulded in a way which is realistic for the circumstances we face now.”

Poverty, the archbishop concluded, was “costly, wasteful and indeed very risky”. He said: “We in the church must make the argument that losing human potential at a time when we need all the capacity we can gather is hugely wasteful; that paying people below the level required for subsistence fractures the social contract and insurance, and that this is risky.”

H&M Will Raise Prices So that International Workers Can Be Paid a Living Wage

The company logo is placed at the flagship store of H&M, Hennes & Mauritz, HMb.ST, the world's second-biggest fashion retailer is seen in Stockholm

Clothing giant H&M says it wants to set an example among retailers by committing to assuring that international garment and textile workers receive a living wage.  H&M is pledging to pay a living wage to 850,000 textile workers after expressing frustration over a lack of action by governments to address working conditions in Asian factories in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster.

The world’s second-biggest clothing retailer said it would support factory owners at two factories in Bangladesh and one in Cambodia to adopt a fair living wage next year. The Swedish company, which has more than 200 stores in the UK, will then expand the programme to cover the 750 factories that supply its clothes by 2018.

H&M said:

“We believe that the wage development in production countries, which is often driven by governments, is taking too long. H&M wants to take further action and encourage the whole industry to follow.”

Working conditions for textile workers in developing countries have risen up the international agenda following the Rana Plaza disaster this year when 1,129 were killed by the collapse of a garment factory in Dhaka in Bangladesh. H&M did not have clothes made at the site and was the first company to sign a safety agreement for Bangladeshi factories after the disaster.

H&M said that because conditions varied between countries and factories, it would support textile workers in negotiating a living wage – a salary that enables a decent standard of living – instead of imposing a figure.  The company said it would use the Fair Wage Method, an established process for achieving a living wage. After identifying workers’ basic needs, a wage is agreed and is then reviewed regularly with better dialogue between workers and employers.