Historic Royal Palaces staff continue strike action in pensions dispute

Tower of London

Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) staff, including Beefeaters, who are members of the trade union GMB, are undertaking strike action today (Wednesday 6 February 2019) in an ongoing dispute over pensions.

GMB members will participate in a walkout at both the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace sites between 11am and 3pm.

The dispute relates to HRP’s decision to close its final salary pension scheme in March 2019 and replace it with an alternative pension arrangement. In January 2019, GMB members working at HRP were presented with an improved offer, but this was deemed unsuitable by members who felt that it was not comparable to the scheme that is closing.

Discussions between HRP and GMB have so far ended without an agreement. In December 2018, GMB members based at the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace voted 91% in favour of strike action, following an 88% turnout.

Today’s industrial action will also include a demonstration at 12pm, featuring signs detailing the jobs that will be affected by the closure of HRP’s pension scheme. An actor dressed as a Beefeater, complete with raven, will also be in attendance.

GMB is calling on the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, Jeremy Wright MP, to intervene.

John Barnes, chief executive officer at HRP, said: “Our position has not changed. We remain committed to acting in the best interest of the charity and the overwhelming majority of our staff, by closing the defined benefit scheme.

“Only 11% of staff are in the scheme, yet it accounts for 50% of our pension costs. Having a small minority of staff benefiting so disproportionately is clearly unfair and unsustainable. Closing the scheme will enable us to increase employer contributions to pensions for everyone by 2%; an offer that is fundamentally fairer to our entire workforce.”

Michael Ainsley, regional organiser at GMB, added: “The government must not be allowed do a Pontius Pilate, washing its hands of this serious issue and standing by idly watching employers, particularly those they directly contract and who clearly can afford decent pensions, to kick the can down the road for tax payers to pick up the bill.

“GMB is calling on the right honourable Jeremy Wright MP, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, to intervene and stop this savage and mindless raid on [employees’] pensions; after all he employs HRP so it is the government’s responsibility.”