Union attacks AA’s private equity owners

Damon Buffini, managing partner of London-based private equity firm Permira, is at the centre of a campaign staged by UK trade union GMB against the firm’s ownership, along with CVC’s, of the Automobile Association.

London-based buyout firm Permira is being attacked by the GMB, a trade union representing a minority of workers at nationwide roadside recovery service the Automobile Association (AA), which the private equity firm acquired alongside CVC Capital Partners in July 2004 for £1.75 billion (€2.56 billion; $3.3 billion).
 
The GMB placed an advert in the business section of Monday’s Evening Standard, a London newspaper, showing a photograph of Permira’s managing partner Damon Buffini and accusing the firm of unfair dismissal of AA workers.
 
According to the GMB, 24 protest meetings have been planned across the UK, the first of which will take place in London today. The GMB has also tabled a parliamentary motion, 2079, as part of its campaign. 

Speaking to PEO, GMB organiser Paul Maloney said protests would be held at the AA’s national office in Basingstoke and Permira’s and CVC Capital Partners’ headquarters in London. There would also be further advertising in newspaper highlighting the effort, he said.
 
Gavin Hill-Smith, a spokesperson for the AA, said in an emailed statement: “The GMB ceased to be the AA’s recognised trade union in March 2005, following the resignation of thousands of GMB members who left to establish the AADU. Since then, the GMB has waged a campaign against the AA and all that it stands for, based in the main on spurious and unsupported information and accusations. Therefore, the AA sees no benefit for its employees, members or customers in entering into a public debate with a non-recognised entity that would only lend credibility to an unreasonable and self-promoting agenda.”
 
Permira declined to comment. CVC could not be reached for comment.
 
The GMB initially reacted to an announcement at the end of March from the AA that the company’s borrowings totalled £1.9 billion, an increase of £500 million on figures that had previously been disclosed.
 
According to the GMB, the “venture capitalists that run the AA” have laid off approximately 3,300 of the AA’s 10,000 workers.
 
Following the 2004 acquisition of the AA by the two private equity firms, 126 unprofitable vehicle service centres were closed and a further 50 were sold to Nationwide Autocentres, a car servicing and MOT provider owned at the time by NBGI Private Equity.