IBM Job Cut Tactics in Rochester Questioned in Two Media Reports
March 16, 2009 Dan Burger
Job terminations at IBM‘s Rochester, Minnesota, facility are colder than a late winter north wind. Losing a job is one of the most stressful life changes anyone has to go through, but if there are degrees of stress that apply, being over 50 years old and getting the axe is especially hard because the rebound job is often at a considerably reduced salary and reduced benefits package. How did IBM handle its latest round of terminations in Rochester? Not very well, apparently.
Local NBC affiliate KTTC took a closer look at the firings (to call them layoffs, as if these people are possibly going to be rehired, is a cruel joke) and brought attention to a high percentage of over-50 employees that were sent packing. Advisory software engineers and advisory engineers were two job titles specifically noted because approximately 60 percent of the eliminated jobs belonged to folks 50 years old or older. These jobs are within the Systems and Technology Group.
The report takes note of federal and state laws against age discrimination and how dismissed employees receive severance packages only if they sign a document that promises they will not sue Big Blue.
For its part in corporate good citizenship, IBM is offering workers who are no longer needed in Rochester the opportunity to compete for jobs in foreign countries such as China or India, two countries where IBM is outsourcing the majority of its jobs. (See Colonizing Endicott from a few weeks ago for more on this.)
IBM is not confirming how many jobs were eliminated in Rochester. In its report, KTTC references “Associated Press reports from Silicon Valley that IBM does not feel it needs to report job fluctuations to the Securities and Exchange Commission, because its layoffs are not quote ‘material events,’ but are a regular part of its business model.”
An estimate of job losses falls between 400 and 800, but some insiders say it was more.
You can read the entire report or watch a video of the television station’s coverage on the KTTC Web site. Additional commentary from IBM employees can be found at Alliance@IBM, an IBM employee organization dedicated to preserving and improving employee rights and benefits. It does not have a labor contract with IBM and is not an IBM labor Union, although it is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America union.
In a March 5 article from The New York Times, IBM is cited as one of many large corporations that “routinely carry out scattered layoffs that are small enough to stay under the radar.” It notes that IBM has fired approximately 4,600 North American employees in recent weeks.
Although an IBM spokesperson claims the job losses are “business as usual,” some labor experts are taking issue with the lack of disclosure and the treatment of workers. Also worth noting is a federal law that mandates a warning when certain job eliminations are imminent. Some say corporations are intentionally using scattered and smaller scale firings in order to circumvent the federal law–known as the WARN Act–that only applies when dismissals reach a specified number.