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Strike vote could hit AA breakdown cover

A dispute between Britain’s general trade union – the GMB – and the AA over working conditions could hit customers needing breakdown and recovery support if a strike is called.

Some 350 members of the union, who work for the AA driving recovery vehicles, have been balloted over strike action due to claims of excessive hours and mileages and plans to cut staff.

Although not all ballots will be in until the end of this week, GMB senior organiser Paul Maloney said responses so far indicated that strike action was the likeliest outcome.

According to the GMB, AA drivers have to work up to 14.5 hours a day to get through the workload of the 11,000 daily vehicle breakdowns attended by them.

Maloney said the firm had been ‘bullying and harassing’ drivers into working longer hours, which could have an effect on safety.

GMB is demanding that drivers have tachographs in their cabs to record working hours, a call that it says has been rejected by the AA. In the UK, there is an opt-out under European legislation on compulsory tachographs for recovery vehicles.

Maloney says: "The recovery drivers already work very long hours to ensure that broken down vehicles are recovered and taken home.

"They feel they are being pushed too far. The venture capitalists who now own the AA want to sweat the labour who works for them to get more output for less money.

"These drivers will not tolerate any more demands. They have asked their union to organise a strike ballot to allow them to say to the AA ‘enough is enough’."

However, a spokeswoman for the AA, which is celebrating its centenary this year, said they were ‘surprised and bemused’ at the latest claim to be levied by the GMB union.

The AA insists that the GMB is no longer the recognised union of the breakdown organisation and has not been since the creation of the AADU (AA Democratic Union) in March, 2005. It said only about 6% of recovery patrol teams are members of the GMB.

AA road services director Steve Dewey refuted the excessive hours claims.

He says: "While we are exempt from drivers’ hours regulations, we ensure that our drivers do not exceed the guidelines other than in exceptional circumstances. The only time they would exceed this would be in the pursuit of good customer service."

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