AA patrol staff have voted to strike in a dispute over proposed changes to the company’s pension schemes, raising the threat of the first walkout in the motoring organisation’s 105-year history.
The first of a series of two-day strikes will begin on 2 May.
A consultation on the proposed changes, which was launched in February, sets out proposals for a final salary pension cap of 1.5% and a 2.5% cap on career average earnings.
AA’s pension scheme currently has a deficit of £190mn. The company has put in £172mn over the past two years, which is five times more than AA employees have contributed, according to AA president Edmund King.
Additionally, the proposals also include the company’s intentions to increase its contributions by around 40% (from £13mn to £18mn) and to clear the current deficit.
The Independent Democratic Union (IDU), which represents AA staff, said 57% of its members voted in favour of strike action out of 88% of ballot papers returned.
According to a statement from the IDU, its national executive “will now meet to decide on the date and nature of strike action if the AA continues to refuse to enter into meaningful negotiations.”
Meanwhile, the AA has claimed the strike ballot is premature, accusing the IDU of “jumping the gun” by balloting AA patrols on strike action before the consultation on the proposed changes closes on 23 April.
Andrew Strong, chief executive of AA services, said: “We have committed to increase our contributions by 40%, and have improved our offer by raising the cap so feel that the union is out of touch with the real world on this issue. This is not a strong mandate to strike and we would urge the union to think again.
“When you look at problems that beset Readers Digest and many blue chip companies over their pension deficits we believe the fact we want to keep our defined benefit scheme open is good news. In the consultations, most staff seem to accept the need for the company to make changes to the scheme and we think the majority of staff will support our proposals.
“We want to offer all our staff a good deal on pensions – our staff are our greatest asset and pensions are an important part of their remuneration package. The AA is bucking the trend by proposing to keep our final salary section and career average sections open when most companies are closing theirs. We are proposing reasonable changes to safe-guard the future of the pension scheme.”
Read more about the proposed changes to AA’s pension scheme.
Read more articles on pension schemes.