Beefeaters, Jewel House Wardens and other Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) staff will be balloted on strike action over the closure of their defined benefit (DB) pension scheme from tomorrow (November 30).
HRP, which is responsible for the care, conservation and presentation of the unoccupied royal palaces such as Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, has decided to close their workers’ final salary pension to future accrual from April 2019.
The scheme had already been closed to new entrants in 2002 and had a deficit of £4.9m at the end of March 2018, according to HRP’s annual report.
According to Mick Ainsley, regional officer at union GMB, HRP’s decision came as a surprise.
He said difficulties or the ability to afford the pension "had never been muted before, and members just see this attack on their standard of living for the rest of their lives".
He said: "HRP are just jumping on the band waggon as they see other companies ending good DB schemes, preferring instead to let the tax payer pick up the shortfall in the years to come.
"Pensions really matter to our members, and in the day-to-day contacts we have with them across HRP, the importance to them of continuing to be able to build the pension they were promised when they were transferred to HRP from the civil service is emphasised to us over and over again.
"They see their DB pension entitlement as a critical element of the employment package, and quite rightly put a great value on it."
Mr Ainsley added that GMB members had made it very clear that they want more negotiations and are prepared to talk.
"Strike action is the last thing they want to do, but HRP have left them with nowhere else to go," he stressed.
John Barnes, HPR’s chief executive, said the decision would affect 11 per cent of the charity’s staff, which will be joining a defined contribution scheme.
He said: "The [DB] scheme has become financially unsustainable, and the rising costs pose too great a risk for HPR.
"We need to act in the best interests of the charity and of the majority of our staff, who will all benefit from a 2 per cent increase in employer contributions to their pensions from April 2019 as part of the changes.
"This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we have consulted extensively with the staff affected over the course of the past year, as a result of which they will be receiving compensation and transition arrangements among the best in the market."