KENSINGTON Palace staff and employers at other royal palaces are to vote on strike actions over their pensions, with one union chief branding the treatment reserved by workers as “disgusting”.
Employers of the Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), including the Tower of London’s iconic Beefeaters and staff working at sites such as Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace are facing the closure of their pension from November 30. This measure prompted GMB union to call for a vote on possible strike action to protest what has been called a “paycut for the rest of their lives”. Despite GMB saying workers are not happy about going on a strike – but they are ready to in order to protect their rights. GMB regional officer, Mick Ainsley, said: “GMB members have made it very clear that they want more negotiations and are prepared to talk.
“Strike action is the last thing they want to do, but HRP have left them with nowhere else to go.”
HRP chiefs took the decision to close employees’ final salary pensions, despite employees being promised they would not to see changes regarding pensions at the time of privatisation, according to Mr Ainsley.
The current system will be replaced by inferior pensions, it was understood.
This sparked Mr Ainsley’s outrage, who said: “Pensions really matter to our members and in the day-to-day contacts we have with them across HRP, the importance to them of continuing to be able to build the pension they were promised when they were transferred to HRP from the civil service is emphasised to us over and over again.
“They see their defined benefit pension entitlement as a critical element of the employment package, and quite rightly put a great value on it.
“HRP’s decision to close the scheme came as a great surprise.”
Mr Ainsley argued HRP is following a trend set out by other private organisation, saying: “HRP are just jumping on the band waggon as they see other companies ending good defined benefit schemes, preferring instead to let the tax payer pick up the shortfall in the years to come.
“HRP are just jumping on the bandwaggon as they see other companies ending good defined benefit schemes, preferring instead to let the tax payer pick up the shortfall in the years to come.”
This move underlines that historic buildings are more loved by their owners than those who work to maintain them in full splendour, Mr Ainsley added.
He said: “Currently, Government responsibility rests with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport but all the palaces in HRP care are owned by The Queen ‘in Right of Crown’.
“This means that the Queen holds the palaces in Trust for the next monarch and by law cannot sell, lease or otherwise dispose of any interest in the palaces.
“The notion that buildings are more important than the dignity of workers and that the people caring for and responsible for these palaces are not worthy of being cared for in their retirement is quite frankly disgusting.
“This is a pay cut for the rest of their lives.”