Church of England clergy, represented by Unite, the UK’s leading union, have for the first time in their history submitted a formal pay claim, as their members struggle with the cost of living crisis.
Stipend increase submitted
Unite, which represents over 2,000 clergy and lay officers in the Church of England, has submitted a claim for an increase in the stipend that clergy receive of 9.5 per cent to be paid from April 2024.
Unite’s Church of England Clergy & Employee Advocates (CEECA), a distinct part of Unite’s wider faith workers branch, has for the first time been invited to submit proposals to the Church of England’s Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee (RACSC), which advises on increases in stipends.
The CEECA was invited to participate in the discussions after it lobbied the Church’s institutions over how the cost of living crisis was creating hardship for its clergy. Recent research by the charity Clergy Support Trust revealed that nearly one fifth of clergy households turned to them for charitable aid in 2022 to make ends meet.
Under Unite’s proposals, the clergy’s national minimum stipend would increase to £29,340 from 1 April 2024 and the national stipend benchmark be increased to £31,335. The figures are then used by the church’s dioceses to set individual stipends for their clergy. Unite has also proposed a new national funding system to ensure that all dioceses can afford to pay their clergy.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Like all workers Church of England clergy are struggling with the cost of living crisis. While many will argue their work is a vocation, the simple truth is that on their current rewards they are among the working poor.
“The Church of England has billions in the bank and can fully afford to pay its clergy the modest increase in their stipend they are seeking. The clergy deliver a clear message for the Church of faith in the hereafter. Unite is fighting for a better deal for them in the here and now.”
£10 billion in bank
The 2022 Annual Report of the Church Commissioners revealed that its current fund was worth £10.3 billion and that it was achieving average yearly investment growth of 10.2 per cent.
The Church of England’s Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee (RASCSC) is set to make a decision on any increase in the clergy’s stipend at a meeting on Monday 19 June.
Unite activist and member of the clergy, Sam Maginnis, said: “Clergy have been working tirelessly to support their local communities through the cost-of-living crisis: facilitating and coordinating vital services and activities, providing personal care and guidance to individuals in need, and speaking hope and a sense of togetherness in unstable and uncertain times. However, last year many clergy had to turn to charitable aid because they couldn’t make ends meet.
“All clergy should be paid at a level that secures relief from financial hardship, promotes personal wellbeing and enables them to effectively serve and support their local communities. The proposed increase is necessary to start bringing pay back in line with inflation while addressing the most urgent hardship and anxiety faced by too many clergy and their families.
“Unite recognises that the parishes which ultimately fund most stipends are facing the same challenges as frontline clergy and their communities. However, with an investment fund worth £10.3 billion the Church Commissioners could readily provide national support to ensure all dioceses can pay their clergy in line with our proposals.”