Massive US Layoffs at IBM—"Indian Business Machines?"
May 14, 2007, 03:32 AM
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Robert X. Cringley writes at PBS:
The IBM project I am writing about is called LEAN and the first manifestation of LEAN was this week's 1,300 layoffs at Global Services, which generated almost no press. Thirteen hundred layoffs from a company with more than 350,000 workers is nothing, so the yawning press reaction is not unexpected. But this week's "job action," as they refer to it inside IBM management, was as much as anything a rehearsal for what I understand are another 100,000+ layoffs to follow, each dribbled out until some reporter (that would be me) notices the growing trend, then dumped en masse when the jig is up, but no later than the end of this year.

The article concludes:

It is especially disconcerting for an action of this scale to take place at a time when many companies (including IBM) are complaining about a shortage of technical workers to justify a proposed expansion of H1B and other guest worker visa programs. What's wrong with all those U.S. IBM engineers that they can't fill the local technical labor demand? They can't be ALL bad: after all, they were hired by IBM in the first place and retained for years.

What is unstated in this H1B aspect of the story is not that technical workers are unavailable but that CHEAP technical workers are unavailable. Lopping off half the technical staff, as Global Services is apparently about to do, will eliminate much of the company's traditional wisdom and corporate memory in an act that some people might label as age discrimination.

The basic problem is that IBM is a major corporate welfare recipient. That is the type of thing that can be sustained for a company that is creating US jobs. However, I don't see any reason for the US government to dole out that kind of sugar to what is essentially an Indian company. For that matter, the patents, copyrights IBM and the other large H-1b users hold can be quite easily nationalized.

There are lots of American companies around that can utilize virtually any non-proprietary technology. You don't see a lot of H-1b use at Redhat for example. I also think it is high time that we look seriously into treason charges for the senior managers, investment analysts and major investors that have created this mess.