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Beefeaters strike over ‘unwarranted attack’ on pensions

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They are a famous feature of one of London’s best-known landmarks, but on Friday some of the city’s beefeaters went on strike.

For the first time in 55 years, the legendary yeoman warders, commonly known as “beefeaters” staged a walkout over what union leaders called “an unwarranted attack on their pensions”.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) picketed for three hours on Friday at the tower and two other London sites, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace.

All three locations are managed by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP), an independent charity that looks after some of the biggest tourist attractions, including the Banqueting House, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle.

The union is planning further three-hour walkouts on 28 December and 2 January and a separate 24-hour strike by GMB workers will take place on 8 January.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka accused HRP of making an “unwarranted attack on our members’ pensions”.

Beefeaters at Buckingham Palace during a garden party hosted by the Queen
Image:
Beefeaters at Buckingham Palace during a garden party hosted by the Queen

About 120 staff are being moved from final salary pensions onto an “inferior” model, the GMB union said.

“Our members are not paid a king’s ransom and the pension is one of the things that encourages people to stay in the job and deliver a first class service to the public,” Mr Serwotka said.

“People who treasure these historic buildings in London should be left in no doubt that any disruption caused due to strike action, will be solely down to HRP’s intransigence in not paying our members a decent pension.”

GMB regional organiser Michael Ainsley said in a statement: “HRP are jumping on a bandwagon which is seeing employers engaging in a race to the bottom, ending good final salary schemes and replacing them with risky cheaper defined contribution schemes.”

HRP chief executive John Barnes called the strikes “disappointing” and said it will not change their decision.

“We have already offered substantial compensation and transition arrangements to the 11% of our staff who are affected,” he said.

PCS and GMB members have overwhelmingly rejected the changes put forward by HRP in two consultative ballots.

The tourist attractions stayed open during Friday’s three-hour walkout, more of which are planned for over Christmas, but they will close on 8 January, when a 24-hour strike is scheduled.

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