AA faces more days in court after ‘bullied’ ex-employee wins at tribunal

A ‘bullied’ former hotel inspector has won her case for unfair dismissal against the Automobile Association (AA) and plans further action in the courts.

Jane Wyatt, a senior hotel inspector in the Hotels Services Division, was sacked by the AA after a row over new terms and conditions introduced by its private equity owners in 2006..

The Southampton Employment Tribunal ruled that Wyatt had been unfairly dismissed.

Wyatt was was backed by the GMB union. National officer Paul Maloney said she had “stood up to the bullying and harassment visited on the workforce of the AA by private equity owners”.

He referred to the takeover over of the AA by private equity companies CVC and Permira in October 2006, although the company is now owned by Acromas which also owns services for the over-50s specialist Saga. The GMB alleged that CVC and Permira changed pay and terms of conditions of employees which meant “a pay cut of up to £9,000 a year in pensionable salary and gave the AA authority to change pay and conditions arrangements in the future without negotiation”.

The AA said: “The tribunal accepted the dismissal was because of a breakdown in working relationships and not because Mrs Wyatt had rejected new terms and conditions offered by the company. The tribunal went on to say that the dismissal was unfair because certain points should have been further investigated by the company and greater consideration should have been given to redeploying Mrs Wyatt elsewhere within the business.”

The GMB said that Wyatt was a strong supporter of the union’s opposition to changes in staff terms and conditions, and was, it alleged, victimised after she made her position clear in an e-mail she sent to other members of AA staff in February 2007.

“[Wyatt] was isolated, marginalised and dismissed by AA managers in October 2007,” said the GMB.

“She was sacked for refusing to give a blank cheque to the AA to cut terms and conditions further if they so wished,” said Maloney.

Wyatt’s solicitor, Jeanette Sainsbury of Rowley Ashworth, said: “All too often employers cite a breakdown in relationships in circumstances where the employee has done little more than defend themselves in the face of spurious allegations.”

Maloney added that the GMB was pursuing “dozens” of similar cases, through tribunal and the courts, against the AA on behalf of members who have left or still work at the motoring organisation. It is understood that one or more of these relates to Wyatt taking action against the company on the grounds of alleged defamation and libel, and that this will be heard in court next year.

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