IBM U.S. Job Cuts: Nearly 10,000 and Counting
September 21, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The Poughkeepsie Journal, the upstate New York paper that keeps close tabs on IBM, and the Alliance@IBM, a member of the Communications Workers of America union that has been trying to unionize Big Blue for decades, have tallied up the layoffs this year at IBM, and reckon that the total of job cuts in he United States is kissing 10,000.
According to a report in the Poughkeepsie Journal, Lee Conrad, the national organizer for Alliance@IBM, reckons that the 17 stealthy job cuts, which IBM calls “resource actions,” this year at the company have resulted in 9,308 full-time positions being eliminated. About 1,250 of those were in Systems and Technology Group, which makes and sells servers, storage, and chips, with another 1,419 in Software Group. IBM corporate sales, marketing, distribution, finance, supply chain, and research areas also took some hits, and the remainder were from a bunch of different areas in the Global Services behemoth.
None of these numbers take into account contract workers, who have also been let go this year.
IBM has said that it expects to spend anywhere from $300 million and $400 million to layoff employees this year on a global basis, and some have calculated that this could mean as many as 16,000 job losses. Given where the growth markets are in Asia/Pacific and that this is where IT work and manufacturing is increasingly shifting, if there are another 6,000 job cuts on the horizon for IBM to make its profit goals, you can bet that IBM’s North America and European operations are going to take the hits, and given how hard it is to get rid of employees in Europe thanks to strong unions, that probably means more U.S. jobs are going to be gone inside of Big Blue.
But it is also just as likely that if the economy returns to something regarding stable, IBM could simply try to chase more business with the same number of employees. That doesn’t mean IBM won’t fire 6,000 people here and hire another 6,000 there. No one ever talks about the churn factor in all of this. When IBM is firing here in the States, it is usually hiring somewhere else, such as China and India. The IBM employee base has been fairly steady at 400,000 for the past couple of years. And IBM contends that it is still the largest IT employer in the United States, so people should apparently get off of its Big Blue back.
“While we have eliminated some jobs this year, IBM remains the largest tech employer in the U.S. and the world,” explained an IBM spokesperson in referring very generally to the layoffs. “We learned in the early 1990s that those who wait to address business and competitive issues in this industry don’t survive. We have succeeded as a nearly 100-year-old technology company by managing the business in this way.”
If I had to say which is worse–an IBM that is bankrupt and afraid and ashamed to layoff employees and to change or an IBM that is constantly churning its product lines, priorities, and employees to face the ever-shifting IT market in the search for profits–I would have to say that it is the former, not the latter. But I still think IBM could do more with and for its employees in its home country and largest market. IT vendors take the easy way out too often.