Major IBM purge of full-time employees underway - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

by Noel Sederstrom, KTTC News Director

Major IBM purge of full-time employees underway

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ROCHESTER (KTTC) -- A fresh purge of full-time employees is underway at global computer giant IBM, and the so-called "resource action" is touching the massive complex in Rochester.

Other IBM units where there are reports of firings include Research Triangle Park, Raleigh, Lexington, East Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, and San Ramon.

IBM makes no apologies for the rounds of terminations, instead, insisting this is all part of its global business model.

IBM now operates in 170 countries, and one frustration of people who have lost their job here in Rochester has been that the same job, "their job," seems to open up somewhere on the other side of the world, like China or India.

This particular "resource action" is being measured, but the total number will not be known at least until it's finished in 30 days.  The national coordinator of Alliance@IBM of Communications Workers of America Local 1701, Lee Conrad, says his team has been able to verify that 600 workers were fired around the country.

"We are still updating that number as we receive RA packs from affected workers," said Conrad. 

A total number is difficult to verify.  Those who are notified of terminations are usually encouraged to apply for other openings in the IBM system, either at their current site or at any other around the globe.  And apparently, at least some older workers are being pushed toward retirement.

"I'm 60 years old and my manager (30 something and on the fast track) keeps reminding me that it is time for me to retire," writes one IBMer on a web message board.  "I can't afford to retire. I'm good at what I do and I enjoy my work. My customers like me too and I get good feedback from them. But I feel like my manager is trying to force me out. I'm on the old pension plan. What should I do? Should I look for another job internally? He has already threatened to lower my appraisal saying that my performance is dropping. Any advice on what I should do?"

Message boards on the Internet have become a key way of communicating in the IBM culture.  Those affected are required to agree to what amounts to a "gag order" and promise not to talk publicly about being let go, if they want their severance package.  But dozens of reports and comments are now being posted on a Communication Workers of America web site, which has for years now been suggesting that IBM would be a good place for a union and union job protections.

"I work in Global Business Services AMS on the IBM account and was cut today after 24 years," writes one person. "Can't say I didn't expect it, just didn't know when it would happen. Looks like there were about 300 in my group cut."

"Realized I did not have the best review but I have been killing myself working round the clock and this is what I get," posted another frustrated ex-IBMer. "How can they RA someone and NOT know what the severance amount is going exactly or the exact medical benefits. This is nuts that they go into the conversation and not have this information at their finger tips."

Some fired IBMers indicated they are angry about the company's just-released financial report, just published on Tuesday.  IBM reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it produced record income of $14.8 billion last year, up 10 percent from 2009.  IBM reported that its gross profit margin was 46.1 percent, the seventh consecutive year of increase.

Part of Big Blue's stated strategy for success involves investing in "growth markets" -- which more or less explains why jobs are popping up in far parts of IBM'S "Smarter Planet."  Here's how the company itself describes the plan in its latest Annual Report:

"The company has benefited from its investments over the past several years in growth markets. The focus now is on geographic expansion of IBM's presence; on specific industry verticals of the highest impact and opportunity; on countries' build-out of infrastructure aligned with their national agendas; and on creating markets and new business models to serve the different requirements that exist in these emerging countries."

"In order to support this growth, IBM is continuing to invest significantly in these markets to expand capacity and develop talent. At the same time, IBM is expanding and benefiting from large teams of talent with global missions of delivery. The company continues to deepen its research and development (R&D) teams to design for the unique challenges and rapid growth facing these markets."

The company says in its public filing that it is organized into five major divisions--Global Technology Services, Global Business Services, Software, Systems and Technology and Global Financing.  These cuts seem to be primarily occurring inside Global Business Services.

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