IBM Employees Sound Off on Job Cuts

IBM employees report significant job cuts in the IBM Software Group and IBM Sales and Distribution arms, despite the IT infrastructure and software company's recent strong fourth-quarter earnings. Layoffs appear to be in the areas of software development and marketing, among others.

While it appears that mum's the word for IBM management, IBM rank and file employees are talking loud and saying something about recent layoffs.

Word of layoffs comes with a bit of irony, as IBM just announced strong quarterly results on Jan. 20 to the tune of $4.4 billion in profits-up 12 percent over the same period the previous year.

IBM current and former employees posting to a Web site called [email protected] have sounded off about a recent round of layoffs that hit primarily on Jan. 21, but do not appear to be over. The divisions most affected, according to the posts, have been IBM Software Group and IBM Sales and Distribution. But it is possible job cuts could soon hit other parts of the company, according to posts on the [email protected] site.

Indeed, one post on the site said: "I'm part of IBM STG [Systems and Technology Group], and we're getting laid off on Monday. I know SWG [Software Group] in RTP [Research Triangle Park, NC] had 1,400 layoffs."

IBM officials would not comment on the claims of jobs losses.

Another poster, who went by the handle "JustAnotherNumber," said he or she was part of the "SWG massacre" Jan. 21. Another said, "I was whacked yesterday. 29 years 10 months ... interesting that there is zero news about IBM and the mass firings ... very stealthy."

A poster identified as "justanotherbrickinthewall" wrote, "We got hit today ... 10 percent of the group got let go ... and after record quarter and record year ... they do exactly what they want without fear or reprisal ... they got some nerve."

A smattering of other posts read:

"Austin Texas, SWG, 28 people out of 45 cut. Young and old, top and bottom performers. Never show me great 4Q numbers again."

"Work in SWG, development org for big product. Just got the axe, 30 days to find something else. *Was told* 15% of organization was getting the axe. All while the company exceeds analysts' 4Q expectations. Brilliant."

"By my counts about 800 software engineers are selected in the action. 330 Staff, 280 Advisory, 120 senior, and others."

A Wall Street Journal article on the reported layoffs cited IBM employee message boards speculating that there would be job cuts of up to 16,000. The Wall Street Journal report added, however:

"A person familiar with IBM's employment plans said the company doesn't expect numbers anywhere near that large. He said the current action is similar to layoffs IBM makes every quarter as it pushes for efficiency and adjusts to changing market demands for various skills."

Posters to the [email protected] site said IBM described the job cuts as a part of a "resource action." A poster who used the handle "CheapLaborEvenWithABadge" wrote:

"The term 'layoff' is being used erroneously. This is a Resource Action (RA). It has nothing to do with whether they are hiring temps for other positions in other depts at other sites, etc. If your dept is targeted you are gone and you are not on some kind of list to be recalled to work when something magically improves. You are replaced by cheaper labor."

[email protected] is an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America. A description of the [email protected] site said, "This site is designed to allow IBM employees to communicate and share methods of protecting their rights through the establishment of an IBM Employees Labor Union." However, IBM's employees have not been unionized, a point made often in the posts on the site.

According to [email protected]'s Statement of Principles:

"[email protected]/CWA Local 1701 is an IBM employee organization that is dedicated to preserving and improving our rights and benefits at IBM. We also strive towards restoring management's respect for the individual and the value we bring to the company as employees. Our mission is to make our voice heard with IBM management, shareholders, government and the media. While our ultimate goal is collective bargaining rights with IBM, we will build our union now and challenge IBM on the many issues facing employees from off-shoring and job security to working conditions and company policy."

In a Jan. 19 statement regarding potential job cuts, Lee Conrad, national coordinator of the Alliance, said, "The Alliance is strongly urging IBM not to go forward with a new round of job cuts and to stop the offshoring of U.S. workers' jobs."

Moreover, "There is a growing concern among employees that IBM will accelerate the offshoring of our jobs. To offshore U.S. jobs in the middle of an economic crisis and rising unemployment is simply unacceptable," said Tom Midgley, Alliance president.

The [email protected] CWA Local 1701 outlined several steps IBM should take to maintain quality jobs and service and address the company's financial picture. These steps are:

"* IBM must make every effort to save jobs.* If cost cutting is needed, IBM should suspend its stock buyback program-the company has spent $26 billion since 2007-instead of terminating workers.* If job cuts occur, IBM must divulge the number of job cuts, where they are taking place and whether any of these affected jobs are being shifted offshore.* Executive positions should be eliminated in divisions where job cuts occur.* Pay, bonuses and perquisites for executives should be slashed.* Work cannot be shifted from IBM workers in the United States to offshore locations.* Full disclosure of why individual jobs are being eliminated is essential.* Before any new hires are added to the payroll, IBM must recall and rehire employees terminated in past resource actions. "