IBMer after the purge: "No one is immune" - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

IBMer after the purge: "No one is immune"

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- In the wake of the latest "resource action" at IBM's massive computer research, development and manufacturing complex in northwest Rochester, there's now a familiar and recognizable numbness among those who have been passed over for termination.  They are now pushing away that sense of dread many IBMers know so well when Big Blue gets ready to re-invent itself. 

"Everything is hush hush like always," said one IBM Rochester employee. "Usually we knew who was affected and now it's like top secret and it makes one wonder why. I've had people asking me if I am safe. I know MFG (Manufacturing) got hit hard. Sad day yesterday as RAs continue every year."

It is difficult for an insider or an outside observer to gauge the scope of this latest round of job cuts.  Certain employees were invited in for one-on-one meetings with their supervisors on Wednesday, and for many of them, it meant that a 30-day clock is now ticking on their time within "Big Blue's" global computer empire.  Rochester is just one of a dozen IBM locations where job cuts are being made.

One IBM Rochester worker tells KTTC NewsCenter that he heard a manager estimate that 3,000 employees across the U.S. would be jettisoned in this latest wave of readjustments across the nation.  Since the invitations for one-on-ones began going out on Tuesday, people have tried to count heads of those who are losing their jobs.

"Manager just informed me I've been RA'd after 26 years with IBM," notes one Rochester IBMer on a message board. "STG division, software engineer. Sad."

With computer manufacturing in the process of being moved from Rochester to Guadalajara City, Mexico and continued globalization of its work force, there's considerable gloom and not much room for optimism at the huge IBM complex in northwest Rochester. 

"Change is constant in the technology industry and transformation is an essential feature of our business model," said Doug Shelton, an IBM spokesman. "Consequently, some level of workforce remix is a constant requirement for our business. Given the competitive nature of our industry, we do not publicly discuss the details of staffing plans."

Shelton's statement was identical to the one used in Australia two weeks ago, when a woman speaking for IBM was attempting to explain an initiative dubbed Project Mercury, a company effort that might result in the loss of some 200 jobs there.

In recent years, IBM has refused to comment on its periodic employee cutbacks, which it refers to as "resource actions," contending that it has made job shifts a regular aspect of its operating business model.  It boasts of its ability to continually re-invent itself; in a presentation to investors, Vice President Patricia Murphy puts it this way:  "IBM is an innovation company. We pursue continuous transformation both in what we do and how we do it—always remixing to higher value in our offerings and skills, in our operations and management practices, and in the transformational capabilities we deliver to our clients."

Murphy's pitch to investors was part of what IBM calls "Roadmap 2015" and it is clear that the cost of transforming the company is being paid in part by its own long-time employees.  Many of those who have gone public via Internet message board Wednesday note that they have been working at IBM for "29 years"... "31 years"... "34 years"... "45 years." 

"SWG in Dublin, Ohio RA has begun," writes one IBMer.  "Four people in my group so far, all in their 50s and 60s and all senior people."

Silence is a requirement for leaving the computer giant with a severance package, so it is rare for any IBM workers on the chopping block to offer insights let alone to speak out.  However, a blog maintained by the Communication Workers of America has proven to be one of the best ways for outside observers to track work force cuts by IBM around the globe.  The CWA has been trying to organize a union inside IBM.

"Lot of cuts in Canada SWG today (Tues) and even more for tomorrow," posted one IBMer. "Don't take it personally, your relationship with IBM should purely be of mutual benefit. If you don't like your side of the deal then get out of there, because IBM sure as hell won't hesitate to drop you if they think you've outlived your usefulness. If it's not you this time around, it will be you eventually."

If reports on the Alliance@IBM web site are on the mark, the cuts in the Systems Technology Group (STG) might reach 25 percent.  RAs in STG in Canada began on Tuesday with workers given 30 days notice, with more cuts set for Wednesday; one-on-one meetings are reported from STG units in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, where all server developers reportedly have been cut, at Burlington, Vermont, and at San Jose, California.  Other IBM units said to be targeted are the Software Group at sites in Littleton, Massachusetts and East Fishkill, New York.  More cuts reports at Austin, Texas... Poughkeepsie, New York... and Chicago. And other layoffs are reported in the United Kingdom.

"76 to go in UK SWG by 1st July as voluntary," writes one IBMer.  "Also announced an involuntary structure for separation in August. But IBM (has) not yet indicated figures or confirmed if this is over an above the original 76 volunteers.  IBM UK also has big plans to restructure in 2H, all managers have been briefed under NDA."

Back in early March, IBM told its Rochester employees that manufacturing of PowerPure Systems and PureFlex systems are both moving to Guadalajara, Mexico. In addition, the used and refurbished power system manufacturing is going to be shifted to the IBM complex at Poughkeepsie, New York. These production lines are for mid-range computers for business applications.

The company will not divulge numbers of workers negatively affected at the Rochester manufacturing site, but sources initially estimated that 200 full-time employees might be impacted when the work they do in Rochester moves south of the border.  Other company sources did an informal "head count" and told us in March that 150 other "Manpower workers" will also lose their jobs in the shift of manufacturing.

The purge being set in motion Wednesday appears to be unrelated to the shift of computer manufacturing out of Rochester; rather, it is taking on the tone of similar "resource actions" of years back with cutbacks occurring in multiple business units simultaneously.

"IBM's CFO stated that IBM would take a $1-billion charge for job cuts in the 2nd quarter," writes Alliance @ IBM's Lee Conrad.  "This resource action, IBM code name Project Mercury (a more fitting name would be Project Walk the Plank), has already begun in some of IBM's international operations.  But in the case of IBM's international units, the workers are involved in consultations and negotiations through their unions and works councils."

"No one is immune, anyone's number can come up even if you are a stellar employee," said one Rochester IBMer.  "They'll just hire you back through Manpower at a cheaper rate doing the same job."

"If it's not time for your review, there is only 1 other reason your manager would call you in for a 1 on 1," posted a former IBM employee who claimed he was let go in 2007.  "Good luck to those of you that have a meeting scheduled, and remember on your way out the door, keep your chin up, there is life after IBM and it's a better one."

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