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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Mark Serwotka

The threat to lay off King Charles’s staff while the nation mourns is despicable

King Charles III leaving Clarence House, London, ahead of the ceremonial procession of the Queen’s coffin, 14 September 2022.
King Charles III leaving Clarence House, London, ahead of the ceremonial procession of the Queen’s coffin, 14 September 2022. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Among the many people across Britain mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II are those who work at Clarence House, the former official residence of the new King. Some of those staff have served for decades. So it’s incredibly cruel that for about 100 of these mourning workers, their service and commitment have been rewarded with potential redundancy.

It’s a staggering misjudgment: staff are in profound shock. It’s simply unacceptable that they should be treated this way. To make matters worse, the notification was sent out during a thanksgiving service for the Queen in Edinburgh.

In the days since the Queen’s death, some unions have called off industrial action, including mine, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), after our members asked us to do so. The Trades Union Congress annual conference, due to be held this week at a pivotal time for the labour movement, was also postponed. How can it be right that, while life for many in this country came to a temporary standstill, those in charge of Clarence House ploughed on with business as usual by sending out a redundancy notice to grieving workers?

It is to be expected that the ascension of a new monarch will bring with it significant changes, but the speed and way in which this has been carried out is appalling. There was no reason why consideration on these matters couldn’t have waited until after the Queen’s funeral had been held and the needs of the new Prince of Wales assessed.

The PCS members affected are rightly concerned and we have written to the King’s private secretary, Sir Clive Alderton, demanding the redundancy notice be immediately withdrawn. We have made it clear that alternative options should be explored and he should engage in discussions with us.

The despicable way in which these workers have been treated reaffirms the importance of trade union representation in the workplace, with no exceptions made for those working for the royal family. Although PCS is a recognised union at the royal household, it is currently exempt from several employment laws, including the Equality Act. This exemption is indefensible, and the new King and government should reverse it.

Unlike the royal household, Clarence House doesn’t have a formally recognised trade union, and we are now seeking to be a part of ongoing discussions and to gauge interest in workers joining PCS. This is the right thing to do by the workers, because no employer can claim to have the best interests of their staff at heart when they threaten them with job losses and refuse to recognise or so far even engage with unions.

We are committed to supporting all staff in the royal household who will be affected by this announcement and any other changes that may happen. People who have worked tirelessly in their duties during an unprecedented moment in this country’s history shouldn’t be seen as dispensable or have huge uncertainties about their future hanging over them. No worker should be treated this way. Clarence House should withdraw the threat of redundancy and give its workers the respect they deserve.

  • Mark Serwotka is general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union

  • Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at

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