Thursday 16 July 2009

Revolt at IBM over pensions

I posted previously about IBM joining the disreputable band of companies reneging on their promises to employees and trying to close their final salary pension schemes.

Given IBM's history as a bastion of non-trade-unionism, I didn't really expect IBMers to put up much of a fight. It's beginning to look like I might be wrong - the feeling of betrayal amongst long-serving and loyal employees seems to be overcoming a lot of the suspicions and misconceptions about unions.

An employee forum meeting at the Hursley site near Southampton on Tuesday had to be relocated twice to larger venues, eventually being held in an open area with about 150 staff present. Criticism of senior management was greeted with loud applause.

Large numbers of staff are now joining UNITE and it's great to see an IBM section of the union web site carrying lots of advice and updates for IBMers.

You can get a real sense of the depth and breadth of anger if you look at the forums on the web site of the Association of Members of IBM UK Pension Plans (AMIPP). You can also see how quickly people can grasp the need for collective organisation when faced with such a major threat to their livelihoods.

Last month IT & Communications had the highest recruitment rate of any sector in the former Amicus section of UNITE, which is truly remarkable when you consider what has been going on in Construction or Finance for example. If the reaction of IBM staff is anything to go by, this pattern seems likely to continue.

One of the greatest weapons in the hands of IT services employers when pushing attacks on us is that if we fight back they will lose contracts and we will lose jobs. This seems a much less credible argument if staff at other major IT companies are fighting back at the same time. Of course the real threat to our employment doesn't generally come from losing outsourcing contracts - many staff in the sector have been TUPEd from employer to employer repeatedly as contracts are won and lost. The real threat to jobs comes from employers getting away with jacking up profits at our expense, leaving fewer people doing longer hours under more pressure to cope with more work.

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