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IBM shareholders voice concerns

At its annual meeting, shareholders call on Big Blue to review plans to hire workers overseas. Also: The company raises its dividend 12.5 percent.

IBM faced calls to change its pension program and complaints over its plans to hire overseas workers during its annual meeting Tuesday.

Big Blue also said it plans to raise its dividend by 12.5 percent to 18 cents per common share and announced it has signed an extension, worth $575 million, to a professional services contract with Morgan Stanley.

At the annual meeting in Providence, R.I., Alliance@IBM, a union of IBM communications workers, issued a statement that called on the company to stop the practice of hiring workers outside the United States.

IBM has said it plans to hire about 15,000 employees worldwide in 2004 to be spread evenly across the United States, Europe and Asia. The company also has said that it will transfer about 3,000 jobs overseas from the United States this year.

Lee Conrad, the national coordinator for the Alliance@IBM, said his union is troubled by IBM's plans to hire overseas. "This raises serious concerns about the long-term job prospects for workers in the United States," he said in a statement.

Alliance@IBM secretary James Mangi also submitted a proposal to review executive compensation to determine if the current executive pay structures "create an undue incentive to make short-sighted decisions."

Also on the agenda at the meeting were proposals by shareholders to change IBM's pension plan to allow employees to "choose the promised pension and retirement medical insurance" offered before the company made changes to the plan in 1999.

Other proposals called on IBM to adopt a "thorough set of human and labor rights standards for China" and to regularly disclose its political contributions.

In the company's proxy statement, IBM rejected the shareholder proposals.