Alliance@IBM, the union seeking to represent more workers at IBM, called for Big Blue employees to participate in a 15-minute protest against further layoffs Tuesday

The action is left up to individual employees, according to a Union executive.

The protest was supposed to happen between 3-3:15 p.m.

The union plans to review reports about what happened and did not issue a comment Tuesday afternoon.

IBM employs some 11,000 people around the Triangle. It is the largest collection of IBM workers in any one region. Worldwide, IBM employs more than 355,000 people. Of those, approximately 130,000 are in the United States.

“We are encouraging people to stop working, don’t answer the phone and if you work at a big site – go outside your building,” said Lee Conrad, a longtime IBM employee who is retired and serves on the union’s national coordinator.

“It is time for us to start think and acting together,” he added.

A group of protestors picked IBM’s offices in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. on Friday. Some carried “SOS” signs for “stop off shoring.”

The break is a step forward for the union’s efforts, in Conrad’s opinion.

“Some people think a 15-minute break is kind of small, but for IBMers it’s a small step,” he said. “You start small and you work your way up.”

Approximately 6,000 current and retired IBM workers belong to the union, which is based in New York.

The Alliance@IBM Web site contains the following message:

“Tell IBM to stop abandoning good US jobs.

“Participate in a nationwide 15-minute break to protest the job cuts:
Tuesday May 15 from 3:00pm to 3:15pm EDT (2:00 Central, 1:00 Mountain, 12:00 Pacific)

“Stop work for 15 minutes.

“Don’t answer the phone,

“Don’t answer Same Time.

“We must stand together and tell IBM to STOP!”

IBM Sametime is an instant messaging service.

Workers in Vimercate, Italy, are planning to participate as well, Conrad said, giving the work “break” a “little bit of international flavor.”

How many people will participate is unknown, Conrad conceded. “It’s always hard to tell because IBM is so big and so scattered,” he explained.

The point of the break is to draw attention to IBM’s offshoring of U.S. jobs to places such as India and Brazil, Conrad said.

IBM recently disclosed more than 1,300 layoffs. Conrad has predicted that another 12,000 are planned, with many of those to be announced at the end of May and in June.

An Internet blogger for PBS, Robert Cringely has also written in two recent posts that a massive reorganization is taking place in IBM that will affect members of its Global Services unit. IBM management was so concerned about the Cringely reports that it issued an e-mail to employees last week dismissing them.

Conrad said he was “a little bit” surprised by the management response to Cringely “because, generally, they don’t respond. The key is that the report became so widespread within the IBM community that they had to respond. The concern was too great.”

The action is the first the union has sought since 2005 after IBM disclosed 15,000 layoffs.

Much of outside media attention and the IBM response focused on Cringely’s use of 150,000 as a potential layoff total. In a new post to his blog, Cringely said even if his figure is too high many IBMers stand to lose their jobs as part of a so-called ‘LEAN” program.