Historic Royal Palaces staff strike over pensions dispute

22 Jan 2019 News

Hampton Court Palace, owned by Historic Royal Palaces

Credit: CC David Dixon

Staff including beefeaters employed by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) are striking today over the charity's closure of an "unsustainable" pensions scheme.

Workers are picketing outside the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace, which are both managed by HRP, after discussions between the charity and workers union GMB ended without an agreement.

The dispute revolves around the charity’s decision to close its defined benefit pension scheme to future accrual.

Many members of the scheme, which includes an employer’s contribution of about 33 per cent, were transferred over from the civil service when the charity was formed in 1998. However, the scheme stayed open to new members until 2002.

Most of the charity’s employees are on a different defined contribution scheme, which includes an employer’s contribution of between six and nine per cent.

'Disappointment turned to fury'

Last month, GMB members working at the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace voted to support strike action with a result of 91 per cent after a turnout of 88 per cent.

Last week, HRP presented GMB members working for the charity with an improved offer regarding their pensions, however the union said this was unsatisfactory so today’s strikes have gone ahead.

Michael Ainsley, GMB regional organiser, said: “Our members are disappointed to have not reached any agreement with HRP, but their offer was simply not good enough.

“Our members’ disappointment turned to fury however when they were made aware that HRP had commissioned several elaborate and very expensive cakes from Choccywoccydoodah, to launch a new campaign.

“The crass insensitivity shown by HRP in squandering money in this way while telling employees that their pensions are unsustainable is incredible. Perhaps HRP consider it better to ‘let them eat cake’ in their retirement instead of them being able to buy groceries or pay rent and utilities bills.”

‘Financially unsustainable’

John Barnes, chief executive of HRP, said there were about 10 workers demonstrating outside Hampton Court Palace today and six at the Tower of London.

He said: “Due to the small number of people involved, the strike will have no impact on the day to day running of our sites, and we will be remaining open throughout.

“The strike follows a negotiation with the trade unions in January, where we improved upon our already generous offer to scheme members.

“They will receive substantial compensation and transition arrangements, and the benefits they have already accrued will be fully protected.

“Disappointingly, our improved offer was not accepted by the trade unions. 

“The decision to resume the strike action will not change our decision to close the scheme in April 2019.

“It is financially unsustainable, and closing it will enable us to increase employer contributions to pensions for everyone by two per cent – an offer that is fundamentally fairer to our entire workforce.”

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