Kirk plan to pay staff Scottish living wage to cost £1m

Communion is held at the Church of Scotlands General Assembly. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
Communion is held at the Church of Scotlands General Assembly. Picture: Andrew O'Brien
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The Church of Scotland has voted to pay its cleaners, cooks and ancillary staff the Scottish Living Wage in line with a long-standing commitment it made fours years ago at the 2012 General Assembly to pay a fair wage to all its employees.

The move, which will cost around £1 million to implement, came yesterday after a debate in which a Kirk deacon, Gordon Pennykid, from Livingston Old Parish Church, described the failure to do so as “hypocrisy at the highest level of this church”.

CrossReach, the trading name of the Kirk’s social care council, is one the biggest social care agencies in Scotland, employing approximately 2,000 staff in around 70 services such as homeless projects and care homes. It has an annual expenditure of £45 million.

However, low pay has been an issue with funding for salaries being dependent on tripartite agreements and allocations from the Scottish Government, local councils and the Kirk’s own Council of Assembly.

Any cuts in funding from the Scottish Government has led to the Kirk having to increase it own financial contribution.

Care staff are already in line to receive £8.25 an hour from October 2016 as part of a £1 million funding from the Scottish Government’s additional £250 million allocation to health and social care partnerships.

However, this did not cover staff in other roles such as cleaners, meaning the Kirk will now have to find £1 million from its own reserves to honour yesterday’s commitment to pay the Scottish Living Wage to all its workers.

This will involve CrossReach “bidding” against other projects at the Kirk’s Council of Assembly.

Dr Sally E Bonnar, convener, of the social care council, said: “I think it is our job to keep pressing the Scottish Government for appropriate funding.”

Earlier Dr Bonnar told delegates: “The Assembly will be aware that for many years CrossReach has been struggling to achieve a break-even budget and we had hoped to be in a position to bring this to this year’s Assembly.

“Unfortunately, despite the generosity of the Council of Assembly in helping to deliver a consolidated pay rise to our staff this year, factors beyond

our control mean that a break-even position has yet to be achieved, although this year we are closer than ever before.

“However, austerity cuts to public services and the significant annual repayment cost of meeting our Pensions deficit means that there is less money around. “Add to that the increasing, though welcome, pressure of achieving the new Scottish living wage and it becomes increasingly difficult to see how this progress can be maintained.”