Days of dread at IBM; fear and anger as a new "resource action" - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Days of dread at IBM; fear and anger as a new "resource action" boots up

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IBM executives say the job cuts are a "re-balancing" of its work force as it shifts to higher-profit computing enterprises in mobile, analytic and cloud technologies. IBM executives say the job cuts are a "re-balancing" of its work force as it shifts to higher-profit computing enterprises in mobile, analytic and cloud technologies.
Wednesday and Thursday appear to be the two days of dreaded one-on-one meetings with supervisors heralding a new "resource action" to trim thousands of jobs. Wednesday and Thursday appear to be the two days of dreaded one-on-one meetings with supervisors heralding a new "resource action" to trim thousands of jobs.
IBM Watson Computer at Yorktown Heights, N.Y. (IBM photo) IBM Watson Computer at Yorktown Heights, N.Y. (IBM photo)
ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- As layoffs began at IBM's main campus in northwest Rochester and sites around the world, Wednesday and Thursday are emerging as the two days of dreaded one-on-one meetings with supervisors heralding a new "resource action" to trim thousands of jobs.  Despite one report of a significant layoff underway at IBM/Rochester, there has been no immediate way to either confirm or disregard it.

Lee Conrad, the coordinator of the "Alliance@IBM" blog run by the Communication Workers of America, said he has not been able to verify the truth of a blog post Wednesday claiming that 975 people at the sprawling complex in Rochester are losing their jobs.  Rochester City Council President Randy Staver said late Wednesday afternoon he had not been informed of a significant layoff at IBM/Rochester.  Nevertheless, it underlies the fear and anger stirred up by what IBM managers insist is a basic part of the company's business model.

So far, blog posts indicate major job cuts in Dubuque, Iowa (work said to be moving to India)... Littleton, Massachusetts... the United Kingdom... Melbourne, Australia... and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina.  Other sites where layoffs are underway include Poughkeepsie, New York; Boulder, Colorado; and Houston, Texas.

IBM executives say the purge is a "re-balancing" of its work force as it shifts to higher-profit computing enterprises in mobile, analytic and cloud technologies.  A big part of its newest push is in Watson Analytics, named after the computer Watson that defeated humans in the TV game show "Jeopardy! Challenge" back in 2011.  Much of Watson's intuitive intelligence was painstakingly created in Rochester and now lives on as a new way businesses can tap into IBM resources to take advantage of massive cloud computing power.  IBM calls it "automating once time-consuming tasks such as data preparation, predictive analysis, and visual storytelling for business professionals."

Last week a writer in Forbes predicted the new RA would result in the culling of 110,000 jobs but it drew a rebuke from IBM spokesman Doug Shelton, who ridiculed it as speculation that was off by ten-fold.  This and financial benchmarks are leading other observers to conclude that the new workforce trimming will actually result in about 10,000 layoffs.  Many experienced IBM watchers remind, however, that Big Blue uses other techniques beyond the 30-day pink slip to trim its ranks, most notably, programs to move older workers to early retirements.  Those numbers are virtually impossible to track.  IBM employs more than 400,000 people in 170 countries.

"IBM does not comment on rumors. The facts are that IBM announced the company has taken a $600 million charge for workforce rebalancing," said Clint Roswell, Director of External Relations for IBM North America, in a statement to KTTC on Wednesday. "This equates to several thousand people. Last year, IBM hired 45,000 people, and the company currently has about 15,000 job openings around the world for new skills in growth areas such as cloud, analytics, security, and social and mobile technologies. As we have in recent years, and as our clients would expect, IBM continues to remix its skills to match current and emerging client requirements."

IBM executives make no secret whatsoever that they are intentionally making wholesale changes in basic operations to drive higher revenues.  The most open descriptions are in IBM's 2014 financial performance summaries, issued on January 20.

“We are making significant progress in our transformation, continuing to shift IBM's business to higher value, and investing and positioning ourselves for the longer term," said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer. "In 2014, we repositioned our hardware portfolio for higher value, maintained a services backlog of $128 billion and achieved strong revenue growth across cloud, analytics, mobile, social and security. Together these strategic imperatives grew 16 percent in 2014 and now represent $25 billion and 27 percent of our revenue.”

Compared to these lofty statements, and staggering bottom line numbers, the voices of those who fear for their jobs in this latest round of workforce cuts have a forlorn tone.  The one place many feel safe to register their feelings about the "resource action" is the "Alliance@IBM" blog maintained by the Communication Workers of America union.

"Just received reschedule of my monthly 1x1 from this afternoon to 8am tomorrow (1/28)," wrote one on Tuesday. "Given my PBC 3 last week (after a 1 in 2013 - I switched into a really bad organization), I'm sure Feb 28th will be my last day as an IBMer (after 24 years). Actually glad to take the $ and run away from this pitiful company."

"There is an RA. As far as the numbers I can't comment," wrote another on Tuesday. "Anyone who got a 3 will be RA'd. The Severance package given depends on whether this is your first PBC rating of 3 or your second. Severance for first 3 is 1 week for every 6 months up to 26 weeks. Severance for people with consecutive 3's is half so up to 13 weeks total. Notifications tomorrow and everyone gone by end of February. There are no PIPs in this RA. That is why your manager didn't discuss one when you got your crappy 3. For those who got 10% pay cut, you should be getting Severance based on your original salary. While I am saddened for all the people affected in this RA, I also feel bad for whoever is left to try to deal with all the damage control. Waiting for my call tomorrow. Glad the torment will finally be over!"

If this week's "resource action" is like the many others before it, many of those people tapped to leave the IBM workforce will be offered severance packages which will require keeping silent about their personal situation.  So just like previous purges, we may never know how many people in Rochester are leaving their careers behind for new challenges.
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