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Union organisers have asked IBM employees to mock the firm with love letters in retaliation for its recent decision to freeze their pensions.

That is about as much as the union, the Communication Workers of America, can do in their defence. With just a handful of members and a mere 6,000 loosely affiliated supporters among roughly 125,000 IBM employees, it lacks the mandate to win a compromise like the one exacted at Verizon.

Nevertheless, the union is doing what it can, the latest wheeze being equivalent to a surrealist guerilla campaign: bemuse the enemy into giving concessions.

In an email to IBM employees, the CWA urged IBMers to print out and post a rather cheaply designed love heart to IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and human resources vice-president J. Randall MacDonald.

The idea, says Linda Guyer, president of the CWA branch Alliance@IBM and a Big Blue manager, is that, as IBM is heartless enough to deny its dedicated employees decent pensions, people should donate paper hearts - "like in the Wizard of Oz," she said.

A harmless, indeed heart-warming campaign, it is a far cry from the hateful confrontations of the 1970s. But what kind of effect does gentle mockery have on the sort of leather-skinned executives who run corporate America?

MacDonald, according to Guyer, went on a tour of IBM offices last week to give the good news about the revised pension arrangements to employees. Executives, old plebs and new plebs where told in separate meetings. He had bodyguards with him. ®

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