'Black Thursday' at IBM doesn't darken region's economy

Posted March 26, 2009
Updated March 27, 2009

— Hundreds of IBM employees in Research Triangle Park were laid off Thursday, but economic development officials said the region would survive the latest round of cuts.

In RTP, 334 people were cut as part of what IBM (NYSE: IBM) calls a “resource action." Overall, the company planned to cut 1,674 employees in the Application Services unit of the Global Business Services group, according to an internal document provided to and LocalTechWire on Wednesday.

The GBS unit is IBM’s largest, with some 180,000 employees.

IBM sign Officials: RTP can overcome IBM layoffs

Alliance@IBM, a union seeking to represent IBM workers, dubbed March 26 “Black Thursday.”

"I just knew it was going to be one of those days," said Patricia, an IBM employee who declined to give her last name.

Patricia, who has worked for IBM for 11 years as a business analyst, was told she would be laid off in two months. She's on vacation and called in to learn her job is being shifted to Brazil.

"It's very hard to know I'm not losing my job because I'm not doing it well," she said. "I'm losing my job because someone else is doing it cheaper."

IBM officials said in a letter to the state Department of Commerce that affected employees would lose their jobs "no earlier than May 26."

Ten vice presidents were among those being laid off or offered the chance to find jobs elsewhere in the company, according to the internal document.

Alliance@IBM coordinator Lee Conrad told LocalTechWire and that rumors of 4,000 layoffs were circulating. Most jobs were being moved overseas.

A comment section at the union's Web site contained numerous posts warning about layoffs. The comments were from people who claimed to work at IBM.

An IBM spokesman declined comment. The company seldom announces or confirms layoffs.

Big Blue, which recently cut thousands of jobs in its software, sales, semiconductor and finance work groups, reduced its U.S. work force by 6,000 in 2008 while adding 18,000 jobs overseas. Of nearly 400,000 employees, some 115,000 are based in the U.S.

The Triangle is IBM's largest single location, with about 11,000 employees, but economic development officials said the region would be able to bounce back from the latest round of layoffs.

Since the beginning of 2007, companies in RTP reported 268 job losses to the state Employment Security Commission, compared with 3,948 following the dot-com bust in 2001-02.

Charles Hayes, president of Research Triangle Regional Partnership, said RTP is on fairly solid economic footing. Still, the region cannot afford repeatedly layoffs, he said.

"It's imperative that we do all we can right now to get every job we can because every job is critical to our long-term success," Hayes said.

Patricia agreed that action is needed to turn the economy around and halt the layoffs.

"Certainly, something has to be done. We can't keep up with this pace. Something has to happen," she said.

IBM's profits increased in the latest quarter by 12 percent, which exceeded Wall Street's expectations, and the company has projected profitability for 2009.


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  • bohica2 Mar 27, 2009

    " ....consumer PCs .... therefore IBM does not make nor sell them anymore. "

    This would not be apparent to anyone watching WRAL's 10 year old "file footage" of PC mfg lines with PC's rolling along while being assembled by anonymous hands.

    WRAL should get some new footage of IBM'ers working in a business IBM hasn't sold off.... Oh wait, how are you going to show footage of outsourcing?

  • Conservative Mar 27, 2009

    "whatelseisnew.... I agree wholeheartedly!! People need to learn oh poor me is what is supposed to drive us to do better. Go back to school,learn a new trade etc. It can be done... I DID IT!!"

    FairPlay - excellent point. I myself plan as though my job will not be there after a year and acquire some incremental skills or experience. I am an engineer and I work for a company where there are several areas of work. I collaborate with a different group each time and work on some value-added special project. This increases one's visibility. It is always good to be known as someone who is willing to be flexible and do different things. I have been laid off twice in my life and I have no sympathy for the "I am a victim" attitude!

  • RMC10 Mar 27, 2009

    Alliance@IBM - how many union(?) jobs are going to be lost and taken overseas. Companies do not want or need unions...wake up and smell the unemployment checks! Companies will no longer be held hostage by unions. Smithfield, John Deere, GM, IBM - jobs just gone. How's that union membership gonna help ya now?

  • foetine Mar 27, 2009

    Glaxo also did massive layoffs this week.

    People can paint a sunny picture of the Triangle, but at this moment - nobody's job is safe. Nobody's retirement fund is safe. You can't prepare for the future when you have zero hope in the tomorrow no being the day you're called into HR.

  • roncorey1 Mar 27, 2009

    REAL union representation would have stopped some of this!!!

    American companies are taking full advantage of the sour economy. Anyone that takes a cut in pay or benefits is an idiot!! You may never get it back when things pick up! American compoanies like IBM have ZERO loyalty to their employees or their own country. The best thing to do is join a union. That way when the company turns it's back on you as they will most surely do, at least you have some negotiated protections!

    People in NC are fools for not having better union representation!

  • ethicalhacker Mar 27, 2009

    How can people say IBM cuts will not affect RTP ? Since IBM gave us severance the ESC will not show the layoff numbers until we can actually add ourself to the rolls of the unemployed. So in 4months the last round will be added and in 6 more months this round will be added and by the end of 2009 guess what RTP unemployed numbers will make record highs and then show the true damage IBM is doing to RTP.

  • haggis basher Mar 27, 2009

    "Alliance@IBM is not a real union"
    I think we got that the first time......

  • FairPlay Mar 27, 2009


    Corporations do make these donations and give to charities as a good thought and not the tax break at heart.Most choices of where and how much to give are made by the Boards and employees of the company. They get a tiny tax break and by no means gain much by this. Itis also done for community building so try not to be too cynical. They also pay employees so they can donate so yes they do help the world go round.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Mar 27, 2009

    Alliance@IBM is not a real union. It doesn't represent the employees at IBM. IBM doesn't recognize it.

    It's few former employees who make a living from CWA support while harassing IBM.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Mar 27, 2009

    Alliance@IBM is not a real union. It does not represent IBM employees. It's a small group of disgruntled IBM employees and former IBM employees that has been making noise for years collecting dues from a few employees that it doesn't represent. IBM doesn't recognize Alliance@IBM and anybody who contributes to it is wasting their money.