Heavens above! Church of England clergy demand pay rise for first time in history

By Sachin Ravikumar

LONDON (Reuters) – Even the clergy are not immune from Britain’s cost-of-living crisis, which has now forced Church of England vicars to make a formal pay claim for the first time in their nearly 500-year history.

The trade union Unite, which represents more than 2,000 clergy and lay officers in the Church of England, said on Monday it has demanded a 9.5% increase in the stipend that clergy receive, to be paid from April 2024.

“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,” Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, pointing to the 10.3 billion pound ($13.20 billion) investment fund listed in the 2022 Annual Report of the Church Commissioners.

A Church of England spokesperson said it was aware that its clergy were dealing with a cost-of-living crisis.

“We are mindful of this, and of issues of affordability for dioceses, in the deliberations over the annual recommendations for the minimum and benchmark stipend levels,” the spokesperson said.

The Church last year set aside 3 million pounds for dioceses to make grants to help clergy struggling with the rising energy bills.

Hundreds of thousands of British workers have taken strike action over the past year, demanding pay rises that better reflect 40-year highs in inflation.

Unite proposed the clergy’s national minimum stipend rise to 29,340 pounds ($37,600) and the national stipend benchmark be increased to 31,335 pounds, it said.

“Last year many clergy had to turn to charitable aid because they couldn’t make ends meet,” said Sam Maginnis, a member of the clergy and Unite.

“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.”

The Church of England’s remuneration committee will meet next week to make a recommendation on the stipend, which then goes to the Archbishop’s Council in September for a final recommendation.

($1 = 0.7803 pounds)

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar; Editing by Angus MacSwan)