Archbishop calls for living wage for all to make work pay

Mon, 10/02/2014 - 14:10 -- nick

Archbishop John Sentamu has called for all companies to pay the living wage to help alleviate the UK's devastating poverty problem.

Those who only receive the minimum wage - currently £6.31 per hour - have seen a "double squeeze" from rising prices and a lower-than-inflation increase in the rate.

Five million people are paid at this minimum level in Britain.

The living wage is £7.65, and takes account of the real cost of a single person's life.

The London rate is £8.80; unlike the minimum wage, it recognises the difference between the cost of living in the capital and elsewhere.

In a clear slight on Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith's sloganising, Sentamu said:

"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."

Smith has regularly stated that 'making work pay' is the aim of his reforms including universal credit, but he has resisted all calls to improve bottom-rung pay, a move which would benefit millions and provide the kind of jobs unemployed people could afford to take.

UnemployedNet campaigns for a Benefit Price Index, which would mean welfare payments are increased each year by the amount of the things claimants actually buy.

The Archbishop's commission has recognised this need, pointing out that food has risen in cost by 44% and energy prices have doubled, while stereos and TVs have halved in real terms.

Sentamu believed that there was both a social and financial cost to the poverty caused, saying of the low paid:

"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."

The majority of those in minimum wage jobs also receive benefits, particularly tax credits, and these subsidise the companies they work for.

A move to a compulsory living wage would force firms to stop profiteering at the expense of the public purse, and meet their employees' real costs.

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