THE MAN who wielded the axe on the retirement dreams of 1,200 Hampshire people has lost his job.

David Gallitano, the American boss of APW Electronics, has left his position by "mutual consent" but with immediate effect, according to confidential internal memos obtained by the Daily Echo.

He was the man at the helm when the Chandler's Ford company wound up its final salary pension scheme, bringing financial heartache to its members.

The scheme collapsed because of a £55m black hole, leaving its members with pensions cut by up to 80 per cent.

No one from the company was available to speak to the Daily Echo to say how much Mr Gallitano had received as a pay-off and pension, or what had prompted his departure.

Romsey MP Sandra Gidley said any pension for Mr Gallitano would be "morally indefensible".

"It really is quite scandalous the way the company has behaved," she said.

"It would be interesting to know how far his pension and pay-off would go towards contributing to a fund for the others."

Speculation was rife among APW workers that the company's financial difficulties were the main reason behind his shock exit.

When contacted at his US home Mr Gallitano, who was in his post for less than two years, said only: "I've told you before don't call this number," and hung up.

The APW row has provoked anger on both sides of the Atlantic with the pensions dispute highlighted in the American media. Here, questions have been asked in the House of Commons, and a delegation of workers and local MPs went to Downing Street to express their concern. This has been coupled with trade union pressure in a bid to resolve the issue.

APW pension fund member Mike Aitken, 58, who has seen his retirement income slashed from £20,000 to £4,000, said: "I'd like to know how much he got as a pension. I bet he won't be crying into his milk.

"Of course I am glad to see him go. I am very pleased that he has gone. He has wound my retirement up. I'm going to have to work until I am 70 now, whereas it was 62."

Parkinson's disease sufferer George Dunford, 65, is another who has seen his savings dwindle

"What can you say about the man? I don't know if it was all his fault but I would have said he will do quite nicely. That makes me feel very bitter.

An APW staff memo headed "strictly for internal consumption only" read: "The board of directors of APW Ltd announced today that David J Gallitano will leave his position as chairman, president and chief executive officer of APW Ltd to pursue other interests. This announcement reflects a mutual agreement between the board and David."

APW owner Oaktree Capital Management has installed William T Allen as Mr Gallitano's replacement. Mr Allen may have to deal with industrial action. The unions announced that APW workers are to be balloted on a possible strike after the company withdrew its proposals for the new stakeholder pension. Matthew Tipper, of the Transport and General Union of Workers, said: "Since the pension scandal the mood has been down and people are fed up."

The outcome of the ballot of 120 Amicus and TGWU union members was due to be announced later today.