Big Blue clams up on job cuts

We're confused. How many people has IBM dumped, when are they going and when is the company going to tell the staff? IBM says recent Computerworld stories about its future in New Zealand are wrong - but won't say how.

We're confused. How many people has IBM dumped, when are they going and when is the company going to tell the staff?

Computerworld has written several stories recently about the future of IBM in New Zealand. They are not, says IBM communications manager Jason Dykes, correct.

"What's wrong?" we asked, "and why hasn't IBM raised the specific points with us?"

"We don't comment on speculation or rumour," Dykes replied.

The conversation was driven by an email to Computerworld's Scoop database.

In essence, the anonymous email said IBM's dismissive response to Computerworld's August posting of 180 jobs to go, on the @IDG Web site was "a tissue of lies".

The correspondent says: "On Thursday, August 26, IBM had issued notices to an unknown number of staff to tell them their jobs were being 'disestablished' and that, unless they could find other jobs in the company, they would be made redundant.

"Affected staff were in the company's services, sales and administration groups. They included senior staff members, some of whom had been with the company for decades. Most of the affected staff will leave the company at the end of September.

"The company seems to have imposed a news blackout on the staff cuts which extends to its internal communications. There have been no statements to staff and it's hard even for insiders to find out how many people have been let go."

Now, this is an anonymous email. But Computerworld, too, has heard that all will be revealed at the end of September.

And, for what it is worth, the number going — outside of those who have been transferred to EDS after IBM lost the Telecom outsourcing deal, and those who were transferred from IBM Global Network to AT&T — is said to be around 80 or 90 people.

"We don't talk about numbers," says Dykes.

"There have been no big announcements this month. Over the past three months some people have been made redundant [150 people at least went when the Voyager programme was cancelled] ... there's been a small number in addition to that."

Computerworld is aware of at least 10 high-profile IBMers who have been dumped. They include a small consulting group and, we are told, the central project people at the Inland Revenue call-centre project. Some who are going have spent more than a decade with Big Blue. Says our correspondent: "These people could have been forgiven for thinking that insult had been added to injury when, in the following weeks, puff pieces appeared in the press, minimising the company's problems and setting out its plans to recover its business in New Zealand."

IBM has announced plans to grow its e-commerce capability in New Zealand. The email seems to come from someone within IBM — probably one who is out the door. There is sufficient detail to suggest the writer is privy to much of what has transpired.

Right or wrong, it raises again an important issue — that of communication. If IBM staff truly don't know what's going on within the company — and all the discussions Computerworld has had with current staff indicate that is so — how on earth can it convey a stable message to its customer base. Over to you, Blue.

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