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LibDem backs IBM staff in pension row...

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Hampshire MP Sandra Gidley has intervened in the row over IBM closing its final salary pension scheme, but hers is a confusing brand of support staff might rather do without.

The Liberal Democrat has called on the government to boycott the firm, a move that would guarantee thousands of job cuts.

"I have written to the Government to ask that they review their existing contracts with IBM, and do not consider IBM for future contracts until the company promises a fair deal to their longest serving employees," she said on Thursday.

The well-meaning but misguided call follows a meeting with IBM UK chief executive Brendon Riley over the decision in July to withdraw the final salary scheme, hitting 28 per cent of the workforce. Gidley represents the Romsey constituency, which neigbours IBM's Hursley site and is close to its Portsmouth HQ.

She highlighted past commitments by IBM executives that the final salary scheme would be maintained.

"Many workers at the Hursley site who will be reaching retirement age within the next ten years are rightly furious that IBM bosses are going back on clear verbal commitments made by senior managers in 2006 that the pension scheme will not be reduced," she said.

An IBM spokesman declined to comment. The firm cited rising costs and the "volatile economic environment" when it shut the scheme.

Gidley's suggestion of a government boycott of IBM is fanciful, but bosses may have reason to be nervous about the row. Workers might take note of their rivals at Fujitsu, who yesterday announced a strike - to take place next week - over the withdrawal of their final salary pensions.

Unite, the union behind the Fujitsu walkout, has already warned of a backlash at IBM. ®

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