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57% of AA staff have voted in favour of strike action over plans to cap employee pensions

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The AA has claimed it offers a 'good pension deal' despite staff opting to take strike action.

The Independent Democratic Union (IDU) held a poll regarding strike action over the AA's plans to cap employee pensions, and 57% of AA staff voted in favour of industrial action.

The AA proposals include a 2.5% cap on annual increases in pensionable salary (up from 1%), a raised staff contribution and a cut in the maximum annual rise in pensions paid out. There is no cap proposed on the career-average section and those who wish to move across to the career average scheme can do so.

According to the AA, although the proposals call for a control over the future cost of the scheme, they also request the company to increase its contributions by about 40% (from £13 million to about £18 million) and to clear the current deficit (estimated at £190 million in November 2009).

But the AA claims a majority of patrols overall did not vote in favour of strike action as more than 400 are not in the union. And since only 87% of unionised staff voted, in actual fact only 48% voted in favour of strike action.

The AA has accused the IDU of ‘jumping the gun', by balloting AA patrols on strike action over proposed changes to the AA pension scheme before the consultation period ends on 23 April.

The AA claims it wants to keep its defined-benefit scheme open and is still consulting on details.

The Office for National Statistics showed that 100,000 private-sector final-salary schemes were closed in 2008 and 87% of final-salary schemes were in deficit last year. The AA wants to buck the trend and keep the AA scheme open.

Andrew Strong, AA Services CEO, said: "We have committed to increase our contributions by 40%, and have improved our offer by raising the cap, so we feel 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 that the fact that 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 safeguard the future of the pension scheme.

"Ballots calling for industrial action are premature as we believe that most staff accept the need for change.

"The AA would like to reassure members that in the event of any strike action, contingency plans would be enacted to ensure that members receive a good service.

"During the recent snow and ice when most of the country ground to a halt, the AA attended over half a million members - nearly double its usual breakdowns. For us, we will try to ensure it is business as usual."