“SHOCK, anger and betrayal” are the feelings of IBM staff faced with drastic changes to their pension rights, according to confidential documents leaked to the Daily Echo from inside the IT giant, one of Hampshire’s biggest employers.

Marked “IBM Confidential”, the letter to chief executive Brendon Riley from the firm’s Pensions Consultation Committee (PCC) warns that staff are flocking for union representation, hundreds of unhappy, experienced workers are being targeted by headhunters and customers are concerned about the impact on their business.

It’s the latest indication of internal strife at IBM, which employs about 6,000 people in Hampshire at its UK research base at Hursley and its UK headquarters in Por t s m o u t h , over plans to close the final salary pension scheme and alter the terms of its early r e t i r e m e n t plan.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, the Unite union claims hundreds of angry IBM workers have been joining-up in readiness to fight the proposals which they say will have “a devastating effect” on future pensions. It calculates that people in their mid-50s could typically lose up to £200,000 as a result of the changes.

Now the PCC letter has confirmed staff are in uproar over the proposals.

“In the last 20 years we, as a group, have never seen such a reaction from our colleagues.

Expressions of shock, anger and betrayal of trust are widespread,” it says.

“IBM UK is in danger of using pension changes as a short term lever to improve the company’s profits, while undermining the future financial security of many employees in the process and turning many of their life plans upside down.”

One senior member of staff said: “I went to a union meting in Eastleigh at the Holiday Inn where they had planned for 100 people but they ended up with over 300.

There was a lot of anger there and there was a wide range of people including senior managers.

“All trust has been lost with the company because they promised three years ago that the final salary scheme would be kept open until 2014. There are record revenues and earnings and the company is awash with cash. They’ve got billions but they want more billions. It is driven by greed.”

Another worker said the row had seen even senior staff turn on each other.

“There is w i d e s p r e a d anger and r e s e n t m e n t even among low level managers towards senior managers. I have never known IBM’s management break ranks before.”

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

A spokesman for the IT firm said: “IBM is in a process of consultation as required by law, during which time employees will have the opportunity to ask questions and send feedback on the proposals.

It would be inappropriate to discuss further during this consultation period.”