Historic Royal Palaces staff strike in pensions dispute

Tower of London

Staff, including Beefeaters, who work at Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) and who are members of the GMB trade union, are conducting strike action today (Tuesday 22 January 2019) in a dispute over pensions.

GMB members will be undertaking the industrial action at both the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace sites between 9am and 4pm.

The dispute regards HRP deciding to close its final salary pension scheme and replace it with an alternative pension arrangement. Last week, 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.

So far, discussions between HRP and GMB have 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, based on an 88% turnout.

Michael Ainsley, regional organiser at GMB, said: “Our members are disappointed to have not reached any agreement with HRP, but [its] 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 [chocolate shop] 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 [not] sustainable 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 [utility] bills.”

John Barnes, chief executive officer at Historic Royal Palaces, added: “A very small group of staff, six at the Tower of London, 10 at Hampton Court Palace, are striking today over the closure of our defined benefit [(DB)] pension scheme. 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 2%; an offer that is fundamentally fairer to our entire workforce.”