AA patrol staff to stage series of 48-hour strikes

Click to follow
The Independent Online

AA patrol staff are to stage a series of 48-hour strikes from May 2 in a row over pensions in what will be the first walkout in the motoring organisation's 105-year history, it was announced today.

The Independent Democratic Union said there had been no response from the company after it announced yesterday that members had backed strikes by 57 per cent in a ballot of its 2,400 members.

National secretary Alistair Maclean said there was "widespread anger" over plans to cap employee pensions, accusing senior management of showing "utter contempt" for workers.

The IDU said it had urged the AA to hold fresh talks, but no response had been received, leaving it "no option" but to authorise a series of walkouts.

Mr Maclean said: "We had hoped the company would have at least acknowledged the anger and concerns that their staff feel over their proposals.

"It shows the utter contempt that the senior management team have for the patrols. Such a belligerent stance leads us to believe our worse fears are correct - that these cuts in pension provision are not being introduced, as the AA claim, to protect the long-term security of AA pensions, but are being driven by the private equity owners squeezing the last drop of blood out of the stone before they sell the company and walk away with millions of pounds.

"We believe that the AA's pension scheme is mature and strong enough to continue providing long-term benefits but if there is an issue then there is a moral obligation for those at the top to invest part of their ill-gotten gains in the pensions of staff who have given years of dedicated service to make the AA the number one breakdown organisation it is today."

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 were "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."

The union said the proposed changes to cap pensionable earnings could lead to the average patrol employee losing up to £10,000 a year.

Mr Maclean said the AA had argued that many firms had closed their final salary pension schemes, but it added that the motoring organisation was not in financial difficulty.

Edmund King, AA president, said: "We are disappointed that the union has publicly announced strike dates, even though they have yet to tell us.

"The ballot result only came in yesterday and, contrary to the union's claims, we responded today asking them to come up with an alternative proposal that achieves the same goals.

"Despite being timed by the union to cause maximum disruption, we are happy to reassure members that we have robust contingency plans in place to maintain a good service to members on strike days and will continue to work towards averting the industrial action.

"The majority of our patrols didn't vote for strike action and we expect a good number will work as normal, supplemented by our other contingency plans.

"We are confident that our patrols will always put members first - that's why they joined the AA and why we want to give them a good pension."