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IBM ends funding for employee retirement clubs

HR boss admits news may be 'disappointing' for the 'significant' population of former staff

IBM has confirmed to former staff that it will no longer provide grants for the Retired Employee Club, meaning no more subsidized short trips to the Italian Riviera or golf days.

The clubs are regionally split. In the UK, for example, there are 28 local organizations that have run short trips or national tournaments including corporate games or group runs.

Joining a club was free for all Big Blue retirees with at least 10 years of service under their belt, regardless of pension age. For Local Clubs, members were asked to pay a small annual subscription.

Elisa Pearson, HR director for the UK and Ireland, confirmed in an email to members – seen by The Register – that IBM has "decided to reconsider its relationship with its IBM Clubs globally."

"This re-appraisal is being made within the context of developing new contemporary approaches to employee engagement. With that, from the end of June 2022 IBM will cease its formal support to UK clubs."

The only exception, in the UK at least, is the Hursley Clubhouse, where some funding will roll on. The village in Hampshire is also the high-profile location of IBM Labs, where R&D for Big Blue has been performed since the 1950s, and home to the IBM Hursley Museum.

Pearson said in her email that IBM realizes the development "may come as disappointing news, we are however cognisant that in the UK, we have a significant retiree club population.

"We would therefore welcome ideas from our retiree clubs, on how we could continue as a club going forward. Where an IBM retiree club today does decide to continue as a new external entity, entirely independent of IBM UK, going forward, we would share your information with newly retired IBMers."

Pearson added in the email: "You may be able to join one of these."

For some, the loss of financial support means the end of the road. The South Hants IBM Retired Employee Club confirmed it is shutting its doors, saying: "From our club's point of view we cannot function without the IBM subsidy so it is with a heavy heart that we are planning how we will close it down."

The removal of the subsidy was something the clubs feared. The subject was raised at the IBM Retiree Club Midlands at its Annual General Meeting in March. The club, which has 419 members, said in the minutes [PDF] of that meeting it had no information about IBM grants for 2022.

"At best, we expect the grant to continue to reduce in per-head value by 10 percent per annum, which means it is unlikely to exceed £9.50 ($12) per head. With inflation reappearing, we may find out ability to subsidize events significantly reducing."

At South Hants Club's AGM – delayed until April to see if IBM was contributing financially to its events this year – members were expecting to receive some funding and talked of upping membership fees, according to minutes [PDF] of that session. Clearly that was decided against.

Some readers may have little sympathy with the plight of former IBMers who now have to dig a little deeper to socialize. Other may say this is IBM again demonstrating the steely edge that shareholders know and love.

IBM turned over $14.2 billion in sales during calendar Q1, up 8 percent on the corresponding period for the year prior. It reported a fall in net profit to $733 million from $955 million. IBM returned $1.5 billion to shareholders during the quarter.

The timing of the decision on retiree clubs coincides with multiple former IBM staff filing lawsuits against the business, alleging age discrimination when IBM laid them off.

We've asked IBM to comment on other activities it has planned for retirees, and why it decided by give up on the current structure. ®

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