Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – A New York newspaper hits the nail right on the head with the power of a sledgehammer in this headline:

“IBM’s employment secrecy will fuel distrust.”

But the first line of the editorial in the Poughkeepsie Journal is even better:

“IBM’s recent decision to stop revealing the number of employees it has in the United States — including locally — is an outrage.”

Like RTP, the Hudson Valley area is one of the largest areas for IBM workers. But the company has refused recent requests from Local Tech Wire and to disclose how many workers it still has in RTP.

Once known as the company’s largest campus, the RTP’s 10,000 work force could well be under that figure now after the recent announced “resource action” (read layoffs) involving more than 2,900 employees in the U.S.

IBM seldom if ever talks about layoffs, but in its annual reports and in Congressional testimony, the company has acknowledging cutting its U.S. headcount drastically in recent years to around 100,000.

So what’s to be gained from such secrecy anyway? IBM says its competitors don’t disclose numbers.

Well, what’s the competitive advantage in that?

Here’s more from the Journal editorial:

“It’s insulting to its shareholders and shows a disappointing disconnect between the big company and the communities that are profoundly impacted by the company’s presence,” the paper said.

“Over the last few years, IBM has gotten increasingly evasive about the number. For a company that has long prided itself on its civic involvement and community outreach — and which still does many good works in these regards — this trend is counter-productive.”


Alliance@IBM, the union seeking to represent Big Blue workers, doesn’t care for the new numbers policy, either.

CEO’s strategy also takes criticism

By the way, Chief Executive Officer Sam Palmisano takes some criticism on another front in a story from Bloomberg. Some critics question whether his continued cost-cutting (such as offshoring U.S. jobs through resource actions) will pay off in the long term.

“Palmisano’s current strategy may have its limits,” Bloomberg notes. “During the past eight years, he has worked to shift IBM’s focus from hardware to services and software, which are more profitable. He’s also cut operating expenses and headcount, sent work overseas and sold off low- margin businesses. All this may not be enough to maintain IBM’s earnings growth.”

Said one analyst: “It’s time for a bold stroke, or a series of bold strokes. It really takes a major acquisition or a series of midsize acquisitions.”

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