LONDON (CNN Newsource) — Standing tall for almost 1,000 years, the Tower of London is one of the most secure places in Britain, home to the Crown Jewels and the Yeomen Warders, popularly known as the Beefeaters, who guard them.
One of the country’s most secure jobs – until now.
“So on a busy summer’s day, we’d have upwards of 10,000 people here,” said Andrew Jackson, Governor of the Tower of London. “And it’s not unusual to see 13, 14 and on some days 15,000 people.”
While the legend has it that the British Crown and Kingdom depends on the six ravens remaining inside the tower grounds, the tower’s finances rely almost entirely on donations and ticket sales.
A steep, sudden, drop-off in tourists – has left a covid-sized £98 million hole in the budget.
Staff, including the ceremonial Beefeaters have been asked to take voluntary severance packages.
Hours have already been cut 20%, and this fall, the ax will come down on more than one-third of the payroll.
“It’s really bad news,” Jackson said. “But we’ve got no other thing that we can do.”
The plight of the Beefeaters and their civilian colleagues is the latest and most British example of just how far-reaching the damage of COVID-19 has been to the economy. Almost 10 million people have been furloughed – many others are simply out of work.
Not a single Beefeater has been laid off in 500 years. If their jobs aren’t safe, it seems no one’s is.
“Nobody anticipated the scale of this crisis either in our industry or anywhere else,” Jackson said.
The Tower of London brings in more than £100 million pounds each year, this year it expects only £12 million.
The British government has guaranteed a £26 million bank loan, but the tower may not make enough money to repay it in the two years when it’s due.
One tower employee said there is a feeling of fear amongst staff that hasn’t been felt before. Understandable considering that behind each of these doors is a family home. All of the Beefeaters live here on site – for them, losing their jobs would also mean losing their house.”
The government says its already subsiding wages for furloughed employees but that money dries up this fall.
With global tourism not expected to fully recover until 2024 – the only thing that might save jobs at the most fortified building on the Thames is a sudden invasion of tourists.