AA patrol staff have voted to go on strike in a row over pensions, it was announced today - raising the threat of the first ever walk-out at the motoring organisation.

The Independent Democratic Union said its members had backed strikes by 57% in a high turnout of 87% of its 2,400 members.

National secretary Alistair Maclean said it was clear there was "widespread anger" over plans to cap employee pensions.

The union urged the AA to hold fresh talks, otherwise strike dates will be set.

Mr Maclean said AA staff were set to lose thousands of pounds under changes to pension pay-outs, which they found "completely unacceptable".

He said the private equity groups which own the AA are "highly profitable", adding: "Staff have gone through a major reorganisation. They have taken all the pain and don't accept that private equity can come in and buy and sell them like a tin of beans.

"They have created a lot of wealth for themselves at the expense of ordinary workers. We need to get back into negotiations to see if we can resolve this. If not, we will set dates for action."

Edmund King, president of the AA, said talk of industrial action was "premature" as consultations on the changes did not finish until April 23.

"Most companies have closed defined benefit pension schemes but the AA is endeavouring to keep its scheme open but put a cap on pensionable earnings.

"It would be easier and cheaper to close it down, so we think we are offering a good deal. We hope there will not be industrial action."

The GMB union is also planning to ballot its members at the AA, including staff at call centres, for industrial action in the same dispute.

National officer Paul Maloney said: "Our members have voted in an indicative ballot to reject the pension changes. We are currently working with our lawyers before holding a ballot for action."

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