Beefeaters suspend planned strike action

GMB members at Historic Royal Palaces had voted to walk out in a dispute over pension arrangements, but the two sides are to hold further talks

(Photograph: Getty Images)
(Photograph: Getty Images)

Strike action planned for today by Beefeaters at the Tower of London has been suspended to allow for further talks.

The union GMB said members at Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that manages unoccupied royal sites including Hampton Court Palace, the Kensington Palace State Apartments and Kew Palace, had put on hold planned strike action after the charity offered further talks in a dispute about pension changes.

Union members are upset that HRP, which was spun out from the public sector as a royal charter body in 1998, plans to change its pension scheme from a defined-benefit version to a defined-contribution scheme.

The GMB said that for those affected the move amounted to "a pay cut for the rest of their lives" and the charity had promised at the time of the transfer that employees’ pensions would not be changed.

The charity, which employs about 1,200 people, said the scheme had become unsustainable and posed too great a risk for the organisation.

About 50 of the approximately 200 GMB members working at HRP took part in the ballot before Christmas, with 91 per cent voting in a favour from an 88 per cent turnout.

Michael Ainsley, GMB regional organiser, said in a statement yesterday: "HRPs decision to scrap the final-salary pension isn't born out of necessity, but out of opportunity as it sees other employers doing the same thing without any scrutiny from government regarding future implications."

The union warned that strike action planned for 15 and 22 January would go ahead if an improved offer from the charity was not acceptable.

A spokeswoman for HRP said further talks would take place soon.

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