North Country News
6:30 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

IBM Lays Off Workers At Essex Junction Plant

Credit Chris Dag, flickr

Pink slips were distributed at IBM facilities across the globe today, and workers at the Essex Junction plant in Vermont were among those losing their jobs.

The layoffs had been expected on Wednesday. But the pink slips came a day later as part of a global workforce reduction. An IBM spokesman responding to request for comment refused to be recorded. Spokesman Doug Shelton said the company does not publicly report the number of layoff notices, nor the departments affected. He noted IBM’s first quarter report did say that the company planned a world wide re-balancing of the workforce.

Wall Street analysts anticipate the global cut to total about 13,000. But Alliance @IBM, the union representing workers, says it’s closer to 15,000.  National Coordinator Lee Conrad says their information shows nearly 150 Vermont workers are getting pink slips.  “I’m not sure if that’s going to be the final number. We believe most of those are in the systems technologies group. IBM has been getting out of hardware more and more. That’s pretty disconcerting for IBM employees in Burlington.”

In an earlier round of layoffs, IBM released a larger number of employees last year.  Lee Conrad says more than 400 people in Essex Junction lost their jobs last year, and this adds salt to the wound.  “This goes on year after year and the Burlington facility keeps shedding workers. This is probably going to happen again, no doubt in my mind. It appears that IBM just wants to shed jobs and not build the business. Job cuts are happening in Burlington today, but they’re also happening throughout the U.S. at various IBM sites. IBM has this ‘Roadmap 2105' where they want to get to this $20 earning per share goal. What’s driving a lot of these job cuts is greed, frankly, to get to that $20 earning per share. We’ve called on IBM to halt that roadmap.”

The village of Essex Junction has learned to rely less on the IBM plant. At one time, according to Village Board President George Tyler, the village got about 50 percent of its tax revenues from IBM. To encourage the company’s continued investment in the community, that was reduced and now accounts for only about 10 percent of the grand list. Tyler says while their concern is for the workers losing their jobs, the regular cycle of layoffs has led to a greater psychological than economic impact on the community.  “To a certain extent with IBM here it’s been, I hate to put it this way, sort of death by a thousand cuts. There hasn’t been this massive closure, which sometimes we hear rumors of. But these layoffs weigh on everybody’s mind that perhaps that’s going to happen. Now within the last year, what IBM has said is that they are interested in trying to sell the plant.”

IBM emailed a statement regarding the layoffs, in which Doug Shelton notes the company this week announced a nanotech agreement with New York state “....which will bring hundreds of new jobs....This also creates new job opportunities at IBM.  At any given time, IBM has more than 3,000 job openings in these and other growth areas in the US.”  
Shelton says those receiving layoff notices will have an opportunity to search for new job roles within the company.

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