IBM begins layoffs at four US facilities

In a move to pare expenses until technology spending improves, IBM is laying off at least 747 workers at four U.S. plants, and union organizers say that more layoffs can be expected in the coming weeks.

Included in the layoffs are about 225 workers, or about 5 percent, of the 4,500 employees at IBM’s Endicott, N.Y., facility, according to Todd Martin, an IBM spokesman in Endicott. Of those, about half will be offered other jobs in their current job categories within IBM, while about 112 will lose their jobs, he said.

Most of the layoffs there will be in the server division software group, with minor cuts in accounting and global finance, he said. The workers were informed yesterday of the job changes, which will take place within 60 days, he said.

“This is a business unit looking at its business and determining what it needs to do to achieve efficiencies through the elimination of redundancies and consolidation of work,” Martin said.

Other IBM development and manufacturing facilities are reporting similar cuts.

Tim Dallman, a spokesman for IBM’s Rochester, Minn., plant, said that about 3 percent of the facility’s 5,000 workers, or about 150 people, will be laid off. The plant develops and builds IBM’s iSeries eServers and pSeries servers.

Steve Cole, a spokesman for IBM’s Poughkeepsie, N.Y., facility said that about 2 percent of the plant’s 6,100 workers, or about 122 employees, will be laid off mostly in the server group.

John Lucy, a spokesman at IBM’s Research Triangle Park, N.C., operations said that about 250 of the plant’s 14,000 employees are being laid off, but added that affected workers are being given the chance to seek any vacant jobs within the company.

“The whole issue is about skills rebalancing,” Lucy said, as IBM seeks to preserve workers who have skills that match the company’s future needs while saving money by cutting workers whose skills are no longer required.

IBM spokeswoman Carol Makovich said the company is not providing any total figures for the number of workers affected by cuts across the entire company. IBM employs about 320,000 workers globally.

But Lee Conrad, national coordinator for the Alliance@IBM, which has been working for three years to unionize workers at IBM, said his group estimates these first layoffs are only the beginning.

“There’s more to come next week,” he said from his office in Endicott. “We know so. [IBM] Global Services will be having their announcement on [May] 29th.”

The Alliance has posted reports on its Web site about some 1,823 layoffs expected at IBM, including the 747 at the four plants already confirmed by IBM spokesmen. The Alliance also believes about 250 server group workers at a Beaverton, Ore., plant will be cut, with another 120 software group personnel laid off at IBM’s Silicon Valley Lab in San Jose.

Another 40 to 50 jobs are being lost at IBM’s Tivoli plant in Austin, Texas, along with about 150 workers in Tucson, Ariz., and about 475 workers in the San Jose storage systems group, the Alliance said.

Conrad said his group has reports of 8,000 to 20,000 IBM workers losing their jobs in the next few weeks across the U.S.

“We’re trying to deal with the realities within IBM itself,” Conrad said. “Even [Sam Palmisano, IBM’s president and CEO] said substantial cuts are coming. The employees know job cuts are coming and they know it’s not going to be pretty and that it’s going to be deep cuts.”

Makovich, the IBM spokeswoman, said she could not confirm the Alliance’s figures. “We don’t comment on rumors,” she said.