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Tower of London striking Beefeaters 'might as well eat cake' after rejecting Royal Palaces' pensions offer

PUBLISHED: 11:50 22 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:26 22 January 2019

Yeomenry Beefeaters parade for General Sir Nicholas Houghton's installation as 160th Constable of the Tower in 2016. Picture: David Jensen

Yeomenry Beefeaters parade for General Sir Nicholas Houghton's installation as 160th Constable of the Tower in 2016. Picture: David Jensen

© DavidJensen 2016

Beefeaters at the Tower of London are among castle workers staging a strike today in a pensions dispute accusing Historic Royal Palaces of "wasting money buying cake" instead of giving them a fair deal.

Beefeaters at the 2017 'Beating the Bounds' ceremony marking The Tower's boundary line, with pupils from Bow's Cenrtral Foundation Girls' School. Picture: HRPBeefeaters at the 2017 'Beating the Bounds' ceremony marking The Tower's boundary line, with pupils from Bow's Cenrtral Foundation Girls' School. Picture: HRP

Crown Jewel House staff and Yeomen Wardens who belong to the GMB trade union are picketing outside the pedestrian entrance on the west side of the ancient castle by Tower Hill and plan to stay out until 4pm.

It follows talks breaking down between the GMB, one of two unions involved, and the privatised Royal Palaces organisation because the switch in pensions “offered little” compared to what they were losing.

“The offer was simply not good enough,” GMB’s regional organiser Michael Ainsley insisted.

“Our members’ disappointment turned to fury when they learned that Royal Palaces had commissioned several elaborate and expensive cakes from ‘Choccywoccydoodah’ to launch a new campaign.

Marie Antoinette... Marie Antoinette... "Let them eat cake." Tower of London picture: Mike Brooke

“The crass insensitivity in squandering money while telling employees that their pensions are ‘unsustainable’ is incredible.”

He paraphrased Beefeaters with a reference to Queen Marie Antoinette’s historic quote during the French Revolution: “Perhaps Royal Palaces consider it better to ‘let them eat cake’ in retirement instead of being able to buy groceries or pay rent and utilities bills.”

The Beefeaters live with their families in the Tower of London—but still pay rent and Tower Hamlets council tax.

Union members working at The Tower, Kensington Palace and Hampton Court voted for strike by 91 per cent in a turn-out of 88pc, following a decision to end ‘final salary’ pensions and replace them with “an inferior pension”.

Lord Dannatt's final Yeomenry Beefeaters inspection of honour when he retires as 159th Constable of the Tower in 2016. Picture: Richard Lea-HairLord Dannatt's final Yeomenry Beefeaters inspection of honour when he retires as 159th Constable of the Tower in 2016. Picture: Richard Lea-Hair

Beefeaters downed tools for a day last month when the Public Services Union rejected the pension offer, their first strike in 55 years. But its members aren’t involved in today’s strike.

Historic Royal Palaces today insisted only six people were striking at The Tower, pointing out that just five out of 37 Yeoman Warder Beefeaters belong to the pension scheme.

The organisation’s chief executive John Barnes said: “A small group of staff including six at The Tower and 10 at Hampton Court are striking today over our Defined Benefit pension scheme closing.

“The benefits they have already accrued will be fully protected when they are transferred in April onto the same contribution scheme as the rest of our staff. The strike has no impact and we remain open.”

"Our disappointment turned to fury when we learned that Royal Palaces had commissioned elaborate and expensive cakes from ‘Choccywoccydoodah’ for a new campaign"

GMB’s regional organiser Michael Ainsley

An improved offer was made last month to pensions scheme members raising the employer contribution by two per cent, but was rejected. So the decision to close the old “financially unsustainable” pension goes ahead in April.

The GMB accused Historic Royal Palaces of jumping on a bandwagon in “a race to the bottom” to replace ‘final salary’ pensions with “risky and cheaper” contribution schemes.

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