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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Royal notes

by New Worker correspondent

SEVERAL UNIONS cancelled ongoing industrial action during the period of official mourning following the death of the Queen and the TUC’s annual conference was postponed for a month. There were mixed views on the left about this. But now, after being rudely interrupted, the class struggle is well and truly resumed.

Indeed, even before Monday’s solemnities, it had started up again at the unlikely location of Clarence House, the home and HQ of the new head of state in his previous capacity.

As a result of Prince Charles’ long delayed promotion from regional director for Wales to becoming Chairman of the United Kingdom PLC, his first action was to warn most of his former staff that they could be made redundant.

PCS, the largest civil service union in the country, deplored this saying that “the decision to announce redundancies in the Royal Household during the period of national mourning is nothing short of heartless” adding that “up to 100 employees at King Charles’ former official residence, including some who have worked there for decades, received notification that they could lose their jobs following his accession to the throne.

“This is a significant majority of the household and many of these staff will be the same people who have so diligently supported the new king during this period of mourning, working extremely hard over recent days only to be given redundancy notices as thanks.”

General secretary Mark Serwotka doffed his cap to say that “the Royal Household is exempt from a number of employment laws, including the Equality Act, but it does not appear that Clarence House is, so we will be ensuring that all measures are taken to protect any staff who choose to join PCS under the act. And we would urge the new king and government to reverse the exemption on the Royal Household”.

Trade unions are recognised by the Royal Household, (which does not include Clarence House) and related bodies such as Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Collections. The latter are officially charities. In addition to PCS, the high castes’ union Prospect and the mandarins’ FDA all have their place at the palaces.

That said many staff are technically employed by the monarch personally, and as PCS notes they are officially excluded from regular employment laws and the Equality Act.

bodies are buried

It is highly unlikely that Clarence House workers have any real fears of redundancy. They know where the bodies are buried and their boss knows of the need to keep people skilled at speed reading documents upside down sweet. They should not be tempted to spill the beans to the tabloid newspapers. The chance of a grace and favour residence or smaller treats for their old age also helps encourage loyalty.

The sudden announcement of a Bank Holiday for the royal funeral, however, was not welcomed by all. The 2 Sisters Food Group, for instance, brusquely informed their 14,000 staff that “our operations will remain open as usual and no additional annual leave has been allocated”. Instead there was an extended lunch break and free breakfast and lunch at the West Bromwich based company.

Bev Clarkson, Unite’s national officer for the food industry said “2 Sisters is intent on blaming everything but itself for the labour shortages it is experiencing. But its refusal to provide staff time off in lieu or bonus payments during this bank holiday exemplify exactly where the company is going wrong. 2 Sisters is known for low pay, thankless T&Cs and unpleasant working conditions. Their approach to the coming bank holiday does nothing to change that.”

It was a similar story in the building trade. At the Construction Industry Joint Council (CIGC) bosses told unions that it was “for each business/employer to determine how they will view the day, and whether time off, paid or unpaid, will be given.”

This, say Unite, “marks a significant departure for the CIJC, which has previously honoured all additional bank holidays”. Unite notes that almost all other construction industry agreements, such as the NAECI agreement (mechanical engineering) and both parts of the Joint Industry Board agreement (electricians and plumbing) have agreed to honour the additional paid public holiday.

Unite national officer for construction Jerry Swain noted that “this is a hugely disrespectful act to the Queen and the Royal Family”. He gave his chances of a OBE a great boost by adding that “the cost of paying a worker an additional bank holiday equates to just seven minutes pay for every year that the Queen loyally served our country. It is peanuts for these construction employers”.