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Pension changes provoke mass spleen-venting

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IBM is being cyber-Mooned after trying to switch staff pensions to a cash-related system. Big Blue workers are venting their spleens on a new Web site set up by a fellow employee, in what some would view as a career-limiting move. IBM Global Service staffer Sang J. Moon said he intended the site to be a place for employees to share information and ideas, not the hotbed of rage that it has become. Staff are using the site, set up three weeks ago, to find ways of embarrassing their superiors. Discussions have raged against IBM CEO Louis Gerstner taking home a whopping salary. One employee suggested paying an aeroplane to drag a banner criticising Gerstner across the skies. The 90-minute epic flight between the PC maker's lab and its research facility in California, costing around $480, would proclaim: "Hey Lou, thou shalt not steal". Many of IBM's 260,000 staff are using their PCs, the products they are paid to make, to protest. The site is getting 15,000 hits a day about the pension plan changes, which is effective from 1 July. From that date IBM will convert to a "cash balance" plan, which usually cuts benefits for longer-service workers, according to today's Wall Street Journal. This scheme generally rewards performance, not length of time at the employer. IBM is one of over 300 employers to move to this unpopular money-saving scheme, but this is the first Web uprising. Employees are logging onto the Yahoo site to compare old and new benefits, and working out how much cash they will lose. One engineer in Minnesota estimated that his 11 years at IBM would be rewarded by the new plan slashing his pension by 30-50 per cent. IBM said the changes would allow it to increase other types of compensation, such as stock options. Meanwhile, Mr. Moon, responsible for this pension-monitoring frenzy on the Internet, says he has been warned not to watch his site while at work, and not to use his company PC. He has been with the company for about five years and works for IBM Global Services in Bethesda, Maryland. ®

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