IBM union: Layoffs could hit 16,000 by year's end

IBM's job cuts, in most cases, appear incremental and regular

There's always a little bit of stealth to IBM's workforce reductions. Layoffs are usually scattered across the country and in numbers small enough to avoid triggering state and federal mass layoff notification laws. And so it was this week, as IBM cut employees from its Global Business Services unit.

IBM never comments on its cuts, the size or locations. It never says anything more about the reason for its reductions than it did today, in a note sent via a spokesman: "IBM is constantly managing resources as client demands evolve across a base of nearly 400,000 employees."

This means that the best information on IBM's workforce reduction in the U.S. come from two sources: The company's own annual report, which shows the year-to-year changes in its U.S. workforce, and the Alliance@IBM.

The Alliance says it has counted about 184 employees who have been laid off in the most recent round of cuts, based on employee information packets it received so far. But it believes the number exceeds that, according to Lee Conrad, the union's national coordinator.

In January, Conrad estimated that as many as 16,000 employees may be cut this year and it's standing by that figure. Based on its count so far, at least 10,000 employees have already been culled from the workforce because of the recession and offshoring.

"It is not right that IBM continues to keep job cut numbers, locations and divisions secret," said Conrad in an email. "IBM needs to come clean on how many jobs are being terminated as the work is offshored. We call for full transparency." The Alliance@IBM is a Communications Workers of America local that doesn't have enough members to gain official recognition as a bargaining unit.

IBM's annual report, which is due out next winter, will likely sum up the net impact of the company's shrinking U.S. workforce. In 2006, IBM employed 127,000 in the U.S; in 2007, 121,000; and last year, 115,000. Meanwhile, its employment in India, Brazil and other nations has been increasing.

Laid-off employees receive a 30-plus page package that includes what appears to be IBM's standard severance package. The last few pages of these packets usually include a listing of the job title being cut, employee ages and the number of people at a particular age. For instance, "SR Managing Consultant (MGR) 36(1), 37(1), 47(1), 53(1), 57(1), and 59(1). Or Assoc Partner Sales, Mgmt Auth 35(2), 37(1), 38(3), 39(1), 41(1), 46(2), 47(1), 48(1), 49(1), 52(3), 53(1), 55(1), and 56(1)."

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Patrick Thibodeau

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