IBM ‘kicks workers in teeth’

London, England -The UK’s largest union is warning IBM to brace itself for a backlash from thousands of employees against the company’s plans to close the final salary pension schemes and to alter the terms of its early retirement scheme.

The Unite union calculates that people in their mid 50’s could lose up to £200,000 ($327,000) as a result of these changes from the retirement pension they had expected to draw before the company’s announcement in July. Unite says ‘hundreds’ of angry workers have been joining the union to protest against the cuts.

The union says the proposed changes will have a ‘devastating’ effect on future pensions in retirement and according to the union potentially lead to between 700 and 1,000 people opting for early retirement prior to April 2010 when the new early retirement provisions apply.

Peter Skyte, Unite national officer for IT and communications, said:

“IBM is facing a backlash against its pensions proposals. Hundreds of workers are joining the union determined to stand up to this unacceptable attack on their pensions. These highly skilled and experienced staff were key to the company’s survival and they view the company’s proposals as a kick in the teeth.

“IBM is a highly profitable company with substantial revenues and cash reserves. But is using the recession as a cloak to close its pension schemes to existing members and further line the pockets of its shareholders and senior executives at the expense of its loyal workforce.”

IBM’s pension cut follows similar announcements by other IT companies including Fujitsu in May, where the company is being challenged by Unite which is holding an industrial action ballot.

IBM UK has around 18,000 employees based at major sites in London, Portsmouth, Hursley (Winchester), Warwick, Greenock, the North West and elsewhere. The company has several pension plans which it is seeking to close and has commenced a 60 day consultation period with a Pension Consultative Committee of employee representatives including Unite members.

Unite will hold meetings with the company at Greenock, Scotland today (17th August) and Manchester on 20th August.