The Archbishop of York has condemned the low pay of millions of Britons as a “national scandal” and has criticised the Government and business leaders for allowing the situation to proliferate.
John Sentamu, who will chair a year-long commission on the feasibility of a so-called Living Wage, which campaigners argue should replace the national minimum rate, said successive governments had offered little more than a “sticking plaster” for the crisis.
He accused firms of forgetting the “basic moral imperative that employees be paid enough to live on”, and called for business, trade unions and government to take part in a “national conversation” about low pay in Britain.
Adoption of the Living Wage, currently £7.45 an hour outside London and £8.55 in the capital, compared with the minimum wage of ï¿½6.19 for adults and £4.98 for 18- to 20-year-olds, would give millions of people on poor wages hope, the archbishop said.
Dr Sentamu attacked successive governments for standing by as company bosses reward themselves with huge pay packages while employees struggled on low wages.
And he questioned why governments simply looked on, then helped the lowest earners with money from the State. He said: “So far, all governments have been merely applying a sticking plaster to the crisis of low pay. The holes in millions of pay cheques are being plugged by in-work support to the tune of ï¿½4bn a year.
“But why aren’t those who are profiting from their workers paying up? Why is government having to subsidise businesses which don’t pay their employees enough to live on?
“These are questions we need to answer and act on – fast. The cost of living is rising, but wages are not. In the rush for profit, and for high pay at the top, too many companies have forgotten the basic moral imperative that employees be paid enough to live on.”
He said politicians from Prime Minister David Cameron to Labour leader Ed Miliband and London mayor Boris Johnson had backed the concept of fairness, but said “what workers really need is pay, not platitudes”.