IBM Keeps Low Profile While Reaction To ‘Resource Action’ Boils
April 4, 2016 Dan Burger
The boiling pot that is IBM‘s workforce reduction plan continues to spill over and let off steam. After a report was released last month from the financial analyst firm Bernstein estimated 14,000 IBM workers would be losing their jobs, the reaction was explosive. Last week, on the Watching IBM website, survey results from a fraction of IBM workers added some context to what’s happening.
“The survey results show what people have been saying for quite a few years. That there is age discrimination going on in the job cuts and the IBM employee evaluation system is seriously flawed. It targets people instead of trying to evaluate them,” says Lee Conrad, formerly the head of Alliance@IBM, a unionizing effort for IBM’s employees in the United States and now the overseer of the Watching IBM website and Facebook page. The two social media information sources are followed by IBM employees and former employees. Of those participating in the survey, one-third (320) said they lost jobs since March 2 (or thereabouts) when the effects of IBM’s latest “Resource Action” began to surface.
Nearly 60 percent believe age discrimination was a factor in the job cuts decision. Of the 715 returned surveys 233 people chose to answer that question. A similar number responded to the question: What was your performance review rating for 2015? Of those, two percent received the top rating, 31 percent received a 2+ rating, and 52 percent received a 2 rating.
Almost two-thirds of the employees did not know if their positions were being filled by someone else, but 27 percent said their jobs were being offshored.
No information exists to dispute or substantiate the accuracy of the estimated 14,000 job reduction.
“The job cuts are ongoing,” Conrad says. “I expect to see some cuts every quarter. But trying to nail down the total number is really difficult. IBM doesn’t talk about it.”
Approximately three years ago, IBM eliminated the Workers’ Benefits Protection Act report that was included in the job cut packages that were given to terminated employees. Those reports listed ages, job titles, and included a total number of employees selected for job cuts. Employees shared that information with Conrad and with other employees. Since that time, it’s become much more difficult to track where the cuts are occurring and how many are occurring.
IBM believes it can minimize the amount of information it provides without getting pinched, Conrad says. “Law firms have been checking into this. There’s a lot of controversy.”
There’s also a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) that became effective on February 4, 1989. It was put in place to offer protection to workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of mass layoffs and plant closings. Notice was to be provided to affected workers or their representatives (e.g., a labor union). Notice was also to be provided to the appropriate unit of local government.
Conrad is dismayed that IBM is not required by local, state, or federal government or even the shareholders to provide details regarding its so-called resource actions.
“For a company that is supposed to be transparent, IBM is certainly not,” Conrad says. “IBM is more forthcoming about this information in Europe because it is required to do so by the unions and work councils there.”
IBM’s offer to reposition laid-off workers to different jobs within the corporation as an option to termination is pretty much non-existent from what Conrad hears.
“IBM talks out of both sides of its mouth. Terminated employees are told they have 90 days to find another job within IBM. And when workers find a potential job, they are told hiring is frozen. It’s a shell game. IBM has been doing this for years. The goal is to get people out, not to keep them.”
What’s happening at IBM (and other technology companies) is shocking. It’s a large scale catastrophe for the employees, many with double-digit years of service to Big Blue. It’s a national disaster that is not getting the attention it deserves.
“IBM used to be a leader in HR policies and other companies followed that lead. Now it’s gone the other way and other companies are also following that lead,” Conrad notes.