Wardens working for the Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle are to vote on industrial action over pay that would see them stop doing voluntary work such as giving guided tours.
The trust is a registered charity that maintains the Queen’s arts collection and archives. Forty-five wardens, who also do first aid and language interpretation on a voluntary basis, will be balloted by their union between today and 14 April, with action planned from the end of April should they vote in favour.
The charity is chaired by Prince Charles and had an income of £55m in the year to 31 March 2014, an 8.2 per cent increase on the year before.
The Public and Commercial Services Union, which claims to represent about 80 per cent of the wardens at Windsor Castle, has criticised the pay of the wardens, which starts at £14,400 a year.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said: "These workers are loyal to their employer and absolutely committed to ensuring visitors are given the royal treatment. It is scandalous that staff are so appallingly paid and expected to do work for free that brings in money for the royal family."
The trust’s accounts for the year to March 2014 show that there was an increase of 147,000 in the number of visitors to Windsor Castle, which helped to boost its income. But the accounts also say that the trust is attempting to increase its free reserves from £4.5m to about £9m to provide a buffer against the possibility of visitor numbers falling in the next five years.
A spokeswoman for the trust said the guided tours were "not compulsory aspects" of the warden’s role and supplied further detail on their pay. "Wardens at Windsor Castle are paid above the market median based on the regional living wage and they get a range of benefits, including a 15 per cent non-contributory pension and a free lunch," she said.
"The Royal Collection Trust continues to award wardens an annual performance-related pay increase of up to 2.5 per cent, a cost of living increase, in line with Treasury guidelines, and one-off payments to those who have reached the top of their pay scales.
"We don't anticipate any interruption to the running of tours for visitors to the castle."