GMB union and AA staff due to protest outside Saga offices in Folkestone town centre today over decision to float on stock exchange
Staff from the AA and members of trade union GMB today protested against Folkestone-based company Saga over its decision to float on the stock exchange.
GMB, representing staff from the AA, staged the protest outside Saga's offices in Middelburg Square in Folkestone town centre this morning (Wednesday).
The union say they held the protest because the AA, one of the country's leading vehicle and breakdown recovery services, will be left with £4 billion worth of debts when Saga are floated on the stock exchange.
But Saga rebuffed their claims and called the action a mere publicity stunt as the trade union for the AA are the Independent Democratic Union (IDU), not GMB.
GMB Union representing AA staff protesting outside the Saga offices in Folkestone town centre
The company that owns the AA, Acromas which is owned by private equity companies Charterhouse, CVC Capital Partners and Permira, plans to split up Saga and the AA when Saga is floated on the stock exchange.
Protest organiser Paul Grafton said: "Saga will be in a position to float with no debt while staff at the AA are pushed to breaking point carrying the burden.
"They cannot work any harder than they are. They are cutting corners left, right and centre.
Saga called GMB's claims "bonkers" and "completely wrong"
"There is no confirmation that the float will pay for any of the debts built up by Acromas but they will walk away with the profits.
"Then if that debt goes wrong, they don't care because it falls on the banks.
"Then you have the best part of 3,000 AA staff who could find themselves out of a job."
But Saga said the claims were "bonkers".
Saga spokesman, Paul Green, said: "They should know better because the fact is that the burden on the AA has declined by about a quarter [since the two companies merged].
"At the same time there's been huge investment in it to make sure they're still the best and favourite breakdown service.
"These are the facts and it's impossible to dispute them.
"What they are saying is completely bonkers and completely wrong. They need to get their facts straight."
Mr Green added he felt the protest was part of an inter-union dispute between GMB and IDU to gain publicity.
GMB estimates each patrol will be landed with debts of £1.3m which require interest payments of at least £53,000 per year per patrol - twice the average wage paid across the AA.
They say this could lead to around £6 million worth of staff cuts.
AA employs 3,000 dedicated roadside patrols reaching an average of 10,000 breakdowns each day.
Protestors wore AA high visibility jackets and carried a large globe-like sphere on their shoulders said to represent "the weight of the world".
Company chiefs in the county say "wholesale review" of business rates would be welcomed but admit they do not know what the alternative is.
Eight companies have pledged to hire over 50 apprentices as part of the Kick Start Kent campaign, being run by the KM Group.
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