We propose a versatile and computationally efficient estimating equation method for a class of hierarchical multiplicative generalized linear mixed models with additive dispersion components, based on explicit modelling of the covariance structure. The class combines longitudinal and random effects models and retains a marginal as well as a conditional interpretation. The estimation procedure combines that of generalized estimating equations for the regression with residual maximum likelihood estimation for the association parameters. This avoids the multidimensional integral of the conventional generalized linear mixed models likelihood and allows an extension of the robust empirical sandwich estimator for use with both association and regression parameters. The method is applied to a set of otolith data, used for age determination of fish.