The number of job cuts underway at IBM (NYSE: IBM) continues to grow, workers and the union seeking to represent Big Blue workers are saying.

By 6 a.m. Tuesday, internal documents provided by affected employs across 12 work groups totaled 870. 

Based on the amount of information being sent directly to union officials, the union local estimated that “at least seven to eight business units” are being “hit” and that the job cuts could “build up into the thousands.”

A corporate spokesperson for IBM confirmed that a “rebalancing” was underway but declined to provide specific numbers.

“IBM is constantly rebalancing its workforce,” he said in response to a query from WRAL.

“That means reducing in some areas and hiring in others – based on shifts in technology and client demand. This flexibility allows IBM to remain competitive and relevant in an industry that is constantly changing. And given the competitive nature of our business, we do not publicly discuss the details of our staffing plans.”

Where the layoffs are occurring geographically wasn’t specified.

IBM employs some 10,000 people across North Carolina.

Employees in 12 IBM work groups have provided reports detailing job cuts at:

  • GTS Public Sector Delivery/IBM Global Account: 59
  • GTS Delivery Application Hosting: 183
  • Corporate Marketing and Communications: 18
  • STG Systems Agenda Delivery: 106
  • GTS finance: 23
  • GTS Delivery Security Risk Management: 39
  • BT/IT Global Workforce Web Processes: 22
  • Software Group East Region Sales: 40
  • GTS MTS Delivery solutions/support: 23
  • GTS Delivery SSO: 57
  • GTS ITS: 128
  • GTS Delivery Distributed Server Mgmt.: 179

Tips about the “resource actions,” which is IBM terminology for layoffs, started appearing Monday morning. IBM employs some 10,000 people across North Carolina. The company will not disclose specific numbers about how many workers are employed where.

Several postings also were made at a portion of the Alliance @ IBM website set aside for job cut reports. The Alliance is the Communications Workers Association Local 1701.

“Just received my RA notice this morning, 9am on the button,” one IBMer posted.

“No big deal considering what has transpired the last several years. Some preparation and hard work ahead and I will overcome this. I prepared myself for a few months on this being that I am a long-term planner. As much as I am shocked, I am also excited at the prospect of change.”

Added another:

“The whack-a-mole hit me today. 11 year IBMer with all 1 and 2+ appraisals. The sad part is, I am relieved. Glad to be leaving the sweatshop that is IBM. Package details forthcoming via email so the Alliance can announce.”

The “1” and “2+” refer to IBM’s job performance ranking system. A “1” and “2” are better than a “3.” There are four performance rankings: 1, 2+, 2, 3. (An earlier list was incorrect.)

“Permanently Displaced”

Under an email headlined “IBM Resource Action (layoff),” one employee wrote to WRAL:

“I am one of many employees being permanently displaced starting today. I did not provide my name intentionally because we will lose the separation package being offered.”

Lee Conrad, the local’s national coordinator, confirmed that layoffs have started.

“Job cuts happening in a number of business units today,” he said. “No numbers yet.”

However, Conrad said that the layoffs are expected to continue into March.

“This is a continuing story,” he added. “Before it’s over the layoffs could build up into the thousands.”

According to Conrad, “Workers are saying jobs cut here and work moved offshore … anywhere from Bratislava to China.”

Often times IBM workers who have been laid off forward to the union resource action documents provided to them by IBM. One document received at Alliance early Monday was for the Global Technology Services Sector Deliver and IBM Global Account group.

According to the document, 59 people were affected ranging in age from 33 to 72.

Layoffs Discussed for Weeks

The job reductions are not coming as a surprise to the Alliance.

Media in Germany reported in January that major job cuts were going to be made in that country, and an IBM executive said in the company’s most recent conference calls that jobs might be “rebalanced.”

“Now like all years, we’re going to acquire and we’re going to divest businesses. We’re going to invest in market opportunities and we’re going to drive productivity where it’s more challenging,” Chief Financial Officer Mark Loughridge said in January.

“We’re going to rebalance our workforce to opportunities and skills aligned with our key investments and hire to drive in those growth initiatives.

“When you look at workforce rebalancing, I think it should be roughly consistent with what we’ve seen over the last four years. More specifically, I think, it would be more like 2010. Once again, if there’s a charge associated to that, it would be offset above net income. But you put that all together, and I think we have a good hand as we enter 2012.”

Shrinking US Work Force

IBM laid off some 10,000 people in the U.S. in 2009 and several thousand more in 2010.

Over the last several years, IBM has reduced its work force in the United States by nearly 30 percent, according to figures published by IBM through 2009 and estimated since by the Alliance based on a variety of information.

The numbers by years:

  • 2011: 98,000
  • 2010:101,000
  • 2009: 105,000
  • 2008: 115,000
  • 2007: 121,000
  • 2006: 127,000
  • 2005: 133,789

In a report last month, Reuters said IBM was looking into the replacement of some full-time employees with contractors and temps.

“Internally the restructuring has been dubbed ‘Generation Open’ and staff that work for IBM on projects but are not full time are called ‘liquid players,’ according to an internal document seen by Reuters,” the news service said.

IBM’s fourth-quarter earnings report last month “handily beat Wall Street’s expectations, helped by higher revenue and profit margins in the technology icon’s lucrative software and services segments” is how the Associated Press summed up the financials.

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