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    Highlights—August 27, 2005
  • Call to action from Janet Krueger. Full excerpt: We need your help to tell Congress the real story about cash balance plans. Over the next few weeks, there are three ways that you can make a difference:
    1. Write and call your Senator, if you have not already done both. (See www.senate.gov for contact information.)
    2. Tell your story in a short two-paragraph letter to the editor of your local newspaper. (Please send me a copy of the letter. We will make sure your Senator sees it.)
    3. If you live in one of the following states, please become a key contact for us with your Senator by requesting a meeting, bring up your experience at a town hall meeting, and possibly travel to Capitol Hill: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming.
    Please call and leave a message for Joy Howell at 202-828-7838 with your contact info and story.
    Background
    Right now, millions of Americans' retirement security is at stake as Congress considers changes to the laws that have prohibited age discrimination in private pension plans for more than three decades. This debate, triggered by the efforts of certain employers seeking to legitimize cash balance pension plans, raises troubling questions regarding aging employees' private pension benefits at a time when a spirited national dialogue is already raging about the future of Social Security.
    Cash balance plans, which fall outside the structure established by Congress in 1973 for private pension plans, have been adopted by numerous employers in recent years and now cover more than 7 million employees across the country.
    Controversial from the beginning, cash balance plans have aroused particular opposition from older, long-term employees who frequently find their pension benefits cut by as much as 50% as a result of conversions from traditional defined benefit plans. Career employees have also objected to the fact that they frequently work for years after such conversions without earning additional pension benefits while younger similarly situated workers begin to earn additional benefits immediately. For that reason, AARP and employee groups have long expressed concerns about cash balance plans. Other employees have challenged such plans and in 2003 a federal court in Illinois held the IBM conversion to a cash balance plan illegal as age discriminatory. IBM is now appealing that decision.
    Thank you in advance for your help. Janet Krueger. Rochester, MN.
    (Editor's note: For more background on cash balance pension plans, please refer to "Cash Balance Myths and Facts", the second bulleted item in last week's highlights.)
  • Yahoo! message board post by Kathi Cooper (of Cooper v. IBM): I'll Take Illinois. Full excerpt: I'll be glad to be the Illinois rep since I've been active in Illinois for many years. Many Illinois politicians and staff already know me. I met with Rep. Costello last week and he was pleased to find out that the case is progressing (Judge Murphy signing the final orders). I was in DC earlier this month and met with one of Senator Obama's staff members during. We had a very interesting conversation. (Janet was there too) I'd like to encourage those from the other states (whether an active employee or not) to represent their state. If/when we go to DC, I'll be going with you and it will be an adventure. You will be doing millions of employees a great service and help protect America's pension system. Please feel free to come forward. Call Joy (below) or Janet.
  • In a Yahoo! message board post, Janet Krueger answers the question "Why are cash balance plans, without conversions, bad for older employees?". Excerpt: The basic reason is that instead of being plans that motivate employees to stay with an employer in order to build up a defined benefit when they reach full retirement (which is the basic public policy Congress was supporting when they decided to grant companies a huge tax benefits for creating defined benefit plans), they are plans that motivate employees to be more mobile. As soon as that virtual cash balance becomes a critical mass where it no longer makes sense to leave it in a simple, interest-bearing savings account, the only way the employee can move it to an account with reasonable investment returns is to leave the company. When you leave a company, you can transfer your cash balance to an IRA or a 401K, but as long as you stay employed, you are stuck with a minimal interest rate. That hurts older employees, but not younger ones. Also, see if you can convince IBM to tell you what vested 'defined benefit' you have earned on your virtual cash balance -- there isn't one!!! Does that give you enough rationale, or do you need more?
  • In a Yahoo! message board post, Janet Krueger comments on the Cooper v. IBM settlement arrangements. Excerpt: Now that the Settlement Agreement has been finalized by a Federal District Court Order, it constitutes a binding contract between IBM and the class members. IBM *HAS* to pay a minimum of $314,293 to the class members at the conclusion of the federal appeals process. The only open question is whether they will also have to pay the additional $1.4 billion. There are only two issues being appealed; whether the cash balance formula itself is age discriminatory, and whether the always cash balance conversion factor was age discriminatory. Under current ERISA law, it is likely that IBM will lose the appeal. That is why IBM is currently spending millions of dollars lobbying in DC to have the law changed retroactively.
    After the appeals process is concluded, if IBM decides for any reason not to abide by the settlement agreement, we can sue them for Breach of Contract. Under Breach of Contract laws, IBM can be forced to pay attorney fees, and could not pay those fees from the pension trust fund. So the chances that we will not get the base amount are slim to none.
    What is undetermined is exactly how much each class member will get... The amounts paid to all members of all subgroups will change based on whether we win the appeal as well as on whether the process concludes before November, 2006.
  • Yahoo! message board post by Gene Martin: Response from Congressman Honda. Full excerpt: Here is the response I got from Congressman Mike Honda D-CA.
    Dear Mr. Martin:
    Thank you for contacting me regarding cash balance pensions plans. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.
    Starting in the mid-1990's, many companies sought to increase savings by converting their employees' traditional defined benefit pension plans, where an employee's pension is determined by his or her length of service and salary level, to cash balance plans, where companies apply a flat amount to a hypothetical cash retirement account on behalf of an employee. The independent General Accounting Office (GAO) found that cash balance conversions hit older employees particularly hard, concluding that conversions without safeguards would lead to a 20-50 percent reduction in their pensions.
    In 1999, the IRS stopped giving formal government approval to cash balance conversions after 800 age discrimination complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by affected employees. However, the Department of Treasury recently proposed regulations that could create an incentive for thousands of companies to convert to cash balance plans by providing legal protection against claims of age bias by older employees. The regulations could result in millions of older employees losing a significant portion of the annual pension they had been promised by their employer and had come to rely on as part of their retirement planning. That is why I joined over 200 of my Congressional colleagues in a letter to President Bush, urging him to withdraw the proposed Treasury Department regulations and to issue new regulations that would prohibit profitable companies from reducing the pension benefits of existing employees or retirees by converting to age-discriminatory cash balance plans. You can be sure I will continue to be engaged in this critical issue, and take your views into consideration should related legislation come before me for a
    vote.
    Once again, thank you for contacting me. Your views help shape the way I represent our district, and I value your opinions. Sincerely, Mike Honda; Member of Congress.
  • Yahoo! message board post by "omikey2": Response From Senator William H. First -- has a sucking sound. Full excerpt: I sent an email (followed by snail mail letter) to my Congressman and Senators. I also sent an email to ALL of the Senators on the H.E.L.P Committee ... (I posted the letter in one of my earlier postings).
    I received NO EMAILS from ANY of them, not even my own representatives responded to me.
    I did receive a hard copy letter from Senator First. I'm typing it verbatim here for your awareness. I do plan to respond to Senator First to inform him that I am appalled at his response, in that he not only DID NOT address my concerns, but he didn't even recognize the subject matter at hand. The letter reads as a 'Template' to be sent to ANYONE and EVERYONE that sends correspondence to him.
    Dear Mr. Oliver:
    Thank you for contacting me. I appreciate the opportunity to serve as a Senator, and it is a privilege to respond to your concerns.
    As a Senator, I regard communication with concerned citizens as my highest priority. A representative body that is out of touch with its constituents cannot function effectively. Having your views on a wide variety of issues helps me focus on your priorities. With your help, we can ensure that Congress remains well-informed and accountable for its actions.
    Throughout my tenure in the United States Senate, I will continue to make government more efficient and more responsible regarding the use of our tax dollars. At the same time, we must also develop sound policies that generate jobs and improve the standard of living for all Americans. Most importantly, we must remain bold in our aspirations for the future.
    Congress will continue to face many difficult decisions. As we confront these challenges, I hope you will continue to share your concerns with me and let me know how I can serve you better.
    Sincerely, William H. First, M.D., Majority Leader, United States Senate
  • Yahoo! message board post by "Dan_Britton". Full excerpt: I've read some of the comments regarding the Future Health Account, so I asked IBM HR to send me an estimate of what a non-Medicare health insurance premium from IBM would cost me (for coverage for myself and spouse). I was shocked to find the premium would deplete my FHA in less than four years. Has anyone had similar findings? Is the FHA truly so inadequate for those contemplating retirement before 65?
    • Kathi Cooper comments. Full excerpt: I'm being charged $551.34 a month, for just me. Wanna bet it won't be there in four years (let alone last that long)? IBM can take it away at any time and there is no law against it. I'm glad to see that you are curious about it. Imagine the thousands upon thousands of others that retire under the FHA and the day after retirement they discover the horror of it all. Too little too late. I joined the Alliance, for this and many other reasons. At least the Alliance tells the truth. Here is their URL on this topic: http://www.allianceibm.org/FHA.html
  • NBC-17 News (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill): IBM Buyer Wants Incentives To Keep Workers In RTP. Full excerpt: The Chinese company that bought IBM's personal computer business in May wants the state and Durham to provide incentives to keep it in the Research Triangle Park area. Lenovo Group is seeking a package worth about $14 million to keep the company's 1,800 workers there. The Herald-Sun of Durham reported that Lenovo is looking at sites in Durham and Wake counties to build a $75-million campus. The company estimates that it would add 400 new workers by 2009. The newspaper cited a four-page document it obtained that outlined the plan. In it, company officials said other states in the Southeast have offered "reasonably attractive'' incentives to entice the company to relocate.
  • Yahoo! message board post by "whydo1lovemycats": Loss of simple human manners and politeness. Full excerpt: Is it me or has anyone else noticed the drop in manners in human interactions among us IBM employees? Even simple human decency? Pathological management personnel is a given these days. I'm talking about dealing with Internal IBM customers who treat you like dirt with disdain and when you do your job as you've been told to do, get vituperation in return. I work in an area where we provide costs to Finance who in turn makes them into prices for our salespeople to propose to IGS Customers.
    The unchecked ability of these Sales people and their allies to walk all over us and even get us removed from their deals for non-business reasons is unprecedented in my experience. Anyone else feel like inside IBM we're tearing each other apart?
  • Yahoo! message board post by "whydo1lovemycats". Full excerpt: Zapfel had better be worried about how the drop in our morale has hurt and is continuing to hurt our Customer relations. We just lost an IT Outsourcing Deal in Ohio. The Customer told us afterwards " IBM is not a company we want to do business with." The arrogant inhumanity of the S&D IBMers driving the deal bled over into their meetings with the Customer people and cost us the business.
  • Fortune: Crunched by low-cost competition, Big Blue is betting that giveaways of precious technology will expand the market—and boost its own prospects. By David Kirkpatrick. Excerpts: It’s IBM’s nightmare. In a conference room in Bangalore, a team of retail experts at software company Wipro are redesigning the consumer experience for a major U.S. retail chain. They’re methodically evaluating the checkout area. The client wants its processes to be state of the art, and Srikant Shankaranarayana, Wipro’s brainy, intense 44-year-old general manager for retail solutions, is pushing his consultants and engineers to ask tough questions: Should salesclerks carry handheld transaction devices or stand at cash registers? Which merchandise should be tracked electronically? How much information needs to be in the database to ensure that discount promotions don’t last longer than necessary? (Editor's note: A subscription to Fortune is required to read the entire article. IBM employees may access the full article on W3).
  • Fortune: Big Traits for Big Blue. IBM recruiter Michael Riegel says it seeks MBAs who do great work and possess "that intangible mix of humility, respect, and wisdom". Excerpt: Q: What makes IBM a great place to work? A: There are three things that make IBM a standout place to work: The high level of skill and experience of the people we employ, our commitment to being the leader in every market we serve, as well as our focus on doing things that matter to the world.
  • BusinessWeek: The Rich Get (Much) Richer [PDF]. By Steven Rattner. Excerpts: Hooray for The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal for returning the problems of class in America to the front page. Shame on the rest of us, passive witnesses to the emergence of a second Gilded Age, another Roaring Twenties, in which the fruits of economic success have gone not to the broad populace but to a slim sliver at the top. For this handful, life is a sweet mélange of megafortunes, grand houses, and massive yachts. Meanwhile, the bottom 80% endures economic stagnation, including real wages that haven’t risen in 14 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Much of the recent commentary has focused on class.
    • "ibmmike2006" comments. Full excerpt: This article is from Steven Rattner who is a managing principal of the private investment firm Quadrangle Group and former deputy chairman of Lazard. In this article he states, over the past 30 years, the share of income going to the highest-earning Americans has risen steadily to levels not seen since shortly BEFORE the Great Depression.
      He references IRS data, the US Government tax collectors as the source of information. The share of income going to the top 1% of households has doubled in the last 3 decades to 14.7% in 2002, up from a low of 7.7% in the early 1970's. By comparison, the income share for the top 1% peaked at 19.6% in 1928 before the beginning of the long slide to the Great Depression.
      At every step up the ladder, the disparity has progressively widened. Over the past 30 years, the share of income garnered by the top 10% of Americans has grown by about a third; the share of the top .01% - the 13,000 households with an average income of $10.8 million in 2002 has multiplied nearly four times.
      Income inequality is now wider in America than anywhere else in the industrialized world and on par with that of a Third World Country. Is this the American dream?
      Don't you think we need to turn this trend around for the sake of our kids and grandkids? Interesting to note, when the top 1% held all the wealth in the country, we had a Great Depression with millions out of work. A Supreme Court Justice once stated that money is like manure, if you pile it up in one spot it stinks, money needs to spread it around to eliminate the stink of it. It also might remove the incentive of the Fortune 500 to rob Pension funds that allows executives to join that top 1%.
  • Yahoo! message board post by "ibmmike2006": Buy stock at $31 - Sell at $84 - $1.8 M. Excerpt: Steve Mills had a nice payday - bought 34,000 shares of IBM in the morning for $31 a share, then sells the same 34,000 shares of IBM
    stock that day for $84 a share. Nets $1,800,000 as a result. Not a bad payday especially considering the IBM share price in recent years. Of course, the $31 share purchase price could have been from 10 years ago.
  • MarketWatch: Time to overhaul HSAs. Health accounts no panacea for retirement. Excerpts: Hailed as an IRA for current and future health-care expenses, researchers now say HSAs may not be the greatest thing since electric toothbrushes. HSAs will help retirees pay for just a fraction of future health-care expenses. And those expenses are expected to be huge, according to recent research from the Employee Benefits Research Institute, a Washington-based nonpartisan group. Consider: a person retiring at age 65 in 2015 might need somewhere between $160,000 and $687,000 to pay for health-care expenses during retirement. Or put another way, EBRI says health-care expenses are likely to be higher than most individuals anticipate and could add 20% or more to the amount of preretirement income that workers will need to replace in retirement.
Vault Message Board Posts
Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. The following is an example post from the Vault message board.
  • "Latest screw the consultant scam..." by "FooserGB". Full excerpt: Latest Blue scam I've been caught in -- the Extended Traveler program. I've been traveling on a project for over a year now. IBM gives you 50% "Tax Assistance" on all expenses to "help" you since the govt treats these expenses as your personal income. Unfortunately, the 50% comes nowhere near covering the additional personal taxes you have to pay, so in essence, you're paying part of the expenses for the joy of being an IBM consultant.
  • "Not just IBM..." by "FooserGB". Full excerpt: True, all long term traveling consultants are taxed on their expenses, but most companies (I've talked to SAP, and have direct experience at PwC), give you enough tax assistance so that you're not losing money. Unfortunately, the IBM accountants setting the policy don't realize we're paying taxes on the taxes, and haven't taken it through enough cycles to come close to making the consultant "whole".
  • "Why Stay?" by "Frank_Reality". Full excerpt: It depends on the person of course, but in my case at this time, staying is my best of a bunch of less than good options.
    1. First, I love what I do.
    2. Opportunities to do what I enjoy are few and far between.
    3. I have too many years of service to move somewhere else. I have the max earned vacation time, I'm at the time when the increases in my pension are ar a max and I'm closing in on earning the FHA.
    4. Being older than 50, it is very difficult to find other employment. Age discrimination not only exists - it is widespread in the industry.
    5. A change in employers would require a move elsewhere. There are many established roots and threads that such a move would tear and break.
    6. I view the miserable promotion allowances, the ridiculous salary plans, the increasing job demands (the 2080 rule) and lack of respect the corporation's executive leadership has for its workforce are temporary. Positive change in such policies will come - the company's life depends on it. Too many are leaving and too many potential hires are not signing up to work for IBM. The question is whether that change will come before I retire or after.
    7. I still believe IBM and IGS are not beyond repair.
    8. I am one of the "Hangers-on" that IBM executives treat with contempt and which they imply aren't doing their jobs. Let me assure you, that not only do I do my job, I do it well. I go well beyond the requirements of expectations of the job. If that weren't the case, I would have been bounced in one of the great purges in the last five years.
    May IBM once again become a great place to work
  • "OK - Let's indulge your fantasy" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: IBM can be great again. No one can argue against that, any more than we could argue against the POSSIBILITY of any other turnaround.
    The question is realistically, what would have to happen before IBM could become great again. If the people from the top down into the first three or four layers of the pyramid have brought us to this state of "ungreatness", does it not follow that they are incapable or unwilling to take the steps necessary to reverse course. The operative word is REALISTICALLY.
    That would require several hundred or so generally egotistical, career-defense minded, self-important people to simultaneously turn their back on that which garnered them their positions of influence, power and fortune. That is not going to happen without an external catalyst that renders their current positions untenable as they are. Simple incremental attrition in the financials will never be strong enough to compel that kind of tectonic shift. That's why the only path back to IBM greatness is REGIME change, radical restructuring, and a major culture change.
    If ever there was a case for Creative Destructionism, this is it.
  • "Dose, a fan of ..." by "Frank_Reality". Full excerpt: Joseph Schumpeter? Seems we've seen a lot of "creative destruction" going on at IBM - like the sale of the PC business, the sale of the storage business to Hitachi and sale of card manufacturing to companies like Solectron and Celestica. While Dr. Schumpeter holds that the failure and destruction of aging businesses frees capital to enable new creative ventures, IBM has largely squandered the proceeds.
    Rather than invest the proceeds in the "next big thing", new technologies and new businesses, much has gone into stock buybacks and executive bonuses. However, some did go into buying the PWC consulting business. ;-)
    I agree with your characterization of the problem with corporate leadership by the "several hundred or so generally egotistical, career-defense minded, self-important people". I agree that the top 3 to 4 layers are the source of the problem - total lack of ethical leadership combined with personal greed and arrogance, mixed in with lack of accountability and strong psychopathic tendencies.
    However, I see these people are so entrenched in power, that the only way they will be removed from the company is if it goes bankrupt. Call that the "nuclear option" - the true destruction Schumpeter describes. It is clear the members of the BOD either do not see the problem or are unwilling to demand and force the necessary changes. Until that comes, there will be no tectonic shift, no radical restructuring, no regime change.
  • "No fantasy" by "Frank_Reality". Full excerpt: I too know of many good, productive people who were cut from the company. Literally everyone is vulnerable including myself. Nobody is denying that. The issue is what can I do about it. The answer is that I have no control over what the IBM execs choose to do to their employees. None. One thing I can do is maximize my value to the corporation. That's not absolute job protection, but it's the best I can do. Count me as both skilled and lucky - anyone who has survived IBM as long as I have has to be dam* good AND lucky.
    Of course at my age, I'm socking as much away as I can for retirement as this could very well be my last job in the business. I probably could retire now if I had to, but the longer I work the more fiscally viable and comfortable my retirement will be.
    About once a year, I take an inventory. Am I still growing? Do I still enjoy what I do? Is there demand for what I do? Can I still tolerate the overwhelming bureaucratic mess that IBM has become? Do I want to do something else? What other options are there for me? How is my health holding out? and more. If the answers remain right, I mentally plan to stay another year. I've been doing that ever since the 1999 pension theft. One year at a time.
  • "Thanks for a thoughtful post..." by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: I know it may seem strange to you, but I am not unhappy, nor am I “disgruntled”, “bitter”, “sulking”, or “old”. It is not a matter of money with me - the upside doesn't motivate me, nor does the downside associated with changing jobs keep me here. It is the freedom that I have in not having to worry about sucking up, impressing colleagues, or establishing a reputation that is the ultimate hook for me here. You have no idea how liberating it is to be able to feel absolutely no dependence on your employer and no fear of “worst case” outcome. I don’t have a need to reach another plateau with success in the industry. It is not because I am at an absolute pinnacle, but having a larger or more successful practice has no marginal utility for me.
    Furthermore, the vast majority of problems that are presented here have little impact on me personally. As constrained as the reward system is here, I am well beyond my perceived living wage. With regard to culture, personalities, and the general unpleasantness of the environment and my colleagues, I can easily maneuver around them since I have little need for networking to maintain my position and output. On top of all of this, I am making a real difference for those that for whatever reason are continuing to persevere here. I am getting more job satisfaction now than I have gotten in years. Add to this the comedic value of working at IBM, and it just can’t get any better for me.
    “That dark, depressed, bitter broken record of "IBM sucks, run far, run fast" has done wonders to help people make informed career decisions. I realize it is hard for the under 40 crowd to accept bad news or negative commentary as a prevailing sentiment. We are living in a Prozac kind of world. However, if it sucks, I am going to say it sucks.
    At the end of the day, “how you look at things” can help you get through a tough situation, but “how things are” determines what your best course of action is. You keep focusing on the former and I’ll focus on the latter.
  • "IBM _Sprint Project" by "s12671". Full excerpt: What can anyone tell me about the IBM_Sprint project? Good jobs? Good pay?
  • "to quote Monty Python" by "Old_Project_Manager". Full excerpt: Run away, run away. They just did a large peon layoff. The contract calls for us to make them No. 1 in Customer Sat in their industry, with heavy penalties if we do not. Do those two sentences sound like they connect together into a coherent strategy? The PE on the account has no clue what is in the Contract so he accepts whatever the Customer asks of IBM. He's too close to retirement to care. And No. 1 on the list - it's a BCS Project.
  • "Need two different models" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: I agree that there is a need to build commodity service capabilities for outsourcing, support, and the low value parts of the IT development/implementation work. However, I see two problems - one with the strategy, and one with the execution.
    First, we will never be able to compete with Wipro on cost alone with the heavy corporate overhead structure that we have. If we engage in a footrace purely on those terms, we will lose in the long run.
    That brings me to my second point. Since we can't compete on cost (without a major fat trimming exercise) we need to differentiate ourselves. That requires having an elite group of extremely motivated consulting resources that can do the diagnostics, business analysis, design, and client relationship management. On the latter point, I am not talking about BD leeches with their heads in the clouds. I am talking about PMs, functional experts, and technology specialists that can immerse themselves in the client's needs, spend dedicated time on proposal work, and give clients a reason not to choose the low cost bidder. They can farm the grunt work out wherever they want to. If we position ourselves like a commodity, then price will rule the client decision process.
    That is why the handling of the PwC acquisition was such an abysmal failure. IBM squeezed compensation and incentives, foolishly believing that there would be no backlash. McKinsey told them ‘the staff would have no place else to go”! Now we are trying to pass off average talent for industry experts and we have set utilization targets so high that the few that have sales talent have no time to build or nurture the pipeline.
    While the hours billed may be 75% commodity resources, the consulting expertise is needed to find and close deals. Without it, all we have is a roster of coders sitting around waiting for a technical spec that will never come.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site:
  • Binghamton (NY) Press and Sun-Bulletin: Cancer rates higher near Endicott spill. Study: Spike in kidney, testicular malignancies. Excerpts: George Kretzmer was not surprised Tuesday evening when he learned that he and others living south of the former IBM plant had significantly elevated rates of birth defects and two types of cancers. "It's hard for me to believe how many people I have buried that are less than 50 years old," Kretzmer told officials from the state Department of Health after they presented the information to residents at a meeting at Union-Endicott High School. "I see a bigger common denominator than I think you're letting on. I don't have a whole bunch of statistics or registry, but this is what I've seen with my own eyes." The study included an area of about 300 acres polluted by solvents first discovered seeping from the IBM plant on North Street in 1979. It also included several blocks west of Jefferson Avenue, polluted by an undetermined source.
  • Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal: IBM/Philips site workers log illness. Excerpts: Eleven workers at the IBM and Philips Semiconductors plants have complained of symptoms and sought further medical treatment following the accidental release of a powdery chemical, the two companies said Monday. The chemical was released shortly before 9 a.m. Thursday from exhaust ducts at the Philips manufacturing plant. The two companies have plants at the same industrial campus in East Fishkill. A similar incident happened July 7. Eight employees and two contract workers from IBM complained of symptoms that included sore throats and a metallic taste in the mouth, IBM spokesman Steve Cole said.
  • Click the Alliance@IBM sponsored Health Focus Survey, if you are an IBM employee, former employee (EI), IBM Retiree, or contractor.. . We urge all IBMers to fill out our Health Focus Survey to help document health problems IBMers might associate with working with toxic materials at IBM.
  • Contractor UK: India rules 30,000 UK IT Work Permits. Excerpts: Over 30,000 UK IT work permits have been granted to foreign computer experts within the last year-and-a-half, according to exclusive data obtained by Contractor UK under the Freedom of Information Act. More than 80 per cent of the 30,090 permits approved between January 2004 and June this year went to Indian computer experts, flocking to British shores as software engineers, system analysts and ‘other IT related’ occupants. The grand total of 24,764 Indian nationals arriving in the UK dwarfed the second highest number of entrants, who originated from the United States. Just over 1,700 American IT managers, engineers and techies snapped up work permits within the same year-and-a-half period. [...]
    Paul Taylor, UK managing director of Hudson IT, says two “key drivers” inspire swathes of Indian nationals to join British technology departments. “Essentially it’s about remuneration. Indian IT pros, whether they seek contract or permanent work, can obviously earn a lot more in the UK than at home. If we set aside the quality of life lure of the UK, remuneration probably is more important than anything else as a key driver,” said Taylor. John Kell, the Professional Contractors Group’s political researcher, supports the IT director’s view, citing homeland rates for Indian IT workers ranging from just £4,000 to £7,000 a year.
  • Alliance@IBM: Attention IBM employees: IBM is blocking e-mail to and from the Alliance@IBM e-mail address endicottalliance@stny.rr.com from inside the company. Please send your job cut information and other correspondence from your home e-mail. You can also contact us the following ways: Phone 607 658 9285 or Fax 607 658 9283.
  • IBM Pension Lawsuit FAQ about Cooper v IBM, Updated 6-21-05. Excerpt: Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the class action lawsuit against IBM's 1995 and 1999 pension plans. The answers are my personal opinions, have not been verified with either IBM or plaintiffs’ counsel, and should not be construed as legal advice. On July 31, 2003, a federal district court judge ruled in favor of the employees in this case. IBM will appeal portions of the ruling. On September 28, 2004, IBM and the legal team on Cooper v IBM announced that an agreement had been negotiated that settles some of the claims and set the amount of damages that IBM will pay to the class if IBM's appeal of the district court's age discrimination rulings is unsuccessful. Click on any question to jump to the answer. Or scroll down and read them all.
  • Job Cuts Status & Comments Page. Excerpts: Job cuts are coming. Information needed: What is Your location? How many job cuts at your location? What locations are cutting jobs? Name of Division and Business Unit? Some sample submissions follow:
    • Comment 08/20/05: What is IBM really selling with all these re-badging IT services deals? Better IT services? Hmmm...but aren't re-badged employees, like Sprint to IBM, basically paid the same with comparable benefits? Don't the IBM customers' former employees mainly continue to do the same work, they always did, only as IBMers? How does this sort of IBM business scheme, save customers money? How? By churning the customers workforce and removing the customers employees from their payroll, benefits and pensions plans; by re-badging them as IBMers. A slick way to save IBM customers these sort of expenses without being accused of age discrimination or being unethical. Just an IBM business deal is all! Sweet!
      The customer unloads those aging employees nearing retirement; or that are being over compensated, and IBM does the dirty work of unemploying the clients former workers. Churning them into the job market, where they most likely will end up doing similar work, for less pay. An employers dream: desperate, cheap experienced labor; churned back into the US employment meat market! Need to renege on promises made to to your employees of decent pay, benefits and pensions? Call in the, International Business Mafia! They'll take care of your problem! You sit back and count the savings as the 'IBM', sticks it to your ingrate former employees, that actually expected you to keep your end of the bargain! Ungrateful bloodsuckers! -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/22/05: Brazil...yeah we knew that. Brazil...where they fire two Americans and hire someone's brother-in-law who isn't even an IBM employee and can't spell WebSphere. Good luck to our customers. They're going to need it. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/22/05: A number of us at Pomeroy IT Solutions were working on the IBM / Thrivent hardware refresh. We were told going in that the project would last several weeks. Then the project got put on hold today. I didn't turn down any jobs to work on this, but the gentleman I was working with had turned down three different work opportunities because he expected to be working on this project for the next few weeks. I get the feeling that IBM thinks that temp employees are a dime a dozen and they can do whatever they like with us. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/22/05: Laying off employees that have been around a long time saves IBM a bunch of money by not having to pay for additional weeks of vacation. In addition, if they let employees go before they can bridge or retire, IBM accrues additional savings by not having additional employees to contribute to retiree health benefits. It makes no difference if IBM is cutting IBM employees or re-badged employees, the savings are a major attraction to the IBM senior management team and the HR folk that are dancing to the tune! Anyone who has the concept that their job is secure hasn't really thought things through. It's only a matter of time before any given employee will be on the list of employees that are no longer needed. This is especially true given the penchant to move jobs to less expensive geographies. Tag, you're next! -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/22/05: Re - International Business Mafia comment is interesting. I have seen several customers outsource to IBM. We let the employees go and then they are "insourced again" a few years later. I won't name the customers but I am sure most IBMers know who they are. Easy way to clean house. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/24/05: From an outsider I believe the layoffs are hurting IBM's quality. In my old company I learned that they were trying to sell the optical storage products group. They had cut back to ONE engineer supporting the whole line worldwide. I also heard that the marketing person for the line also had 40 or 50 other products they were supporting. They also had problems with supplying certain types of disks as the contract with the vendor had fallen through the cracks, no surprise given the minimal staffing.
      Needless to say it was no sale, but I wonder how many customers invested $100's to $millions in technology that was supported with one engineer and 1/40th or 1/50th of a marketing staff? IBM used to be known for quality product and service, but I can't believe with less than 2 full time people in one product line that customers get quality in either. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/24/05: I think it is hilarious how the management in East Fishkill are all hopped up on this new "improving the atmosphere" kick lately. I think it is even funnier when they try to feed the employees the usual line of "How great the company is doing for the second and third quarters" and then the employees had enough and get up and leave the meeting. The jig is up and the employees are not blind anymore. I think it is great how they try to improve morale and all they are doing is making it worse. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/24/05: Nobody's job is safe with the IBM! The International Business Mafia, that is! Where's your name on the IBM's, list? The IBM offers, offshoring schemes also! Not just re-badging. The IBM can churn theirs and their customer's workforce by sending American jobs overseas. Is your name on the IBM hit list? After a year or so of unemployment, will you be willing to work for less, for the IBM or one of the many IBM scams? IBM sells workforce churning and employee separation schemes, under the guise of IT business services. That's really what the IBM sells! Selling American employees out. It's a global eCONomy after all! -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/26/05: We used to hire from only top universities, now we hire from monster.com. We used to be major players in high tech: dedicated seats at NASA launches, inventors of the hard disk that enabled the information age, and too many others to list. Now we wail, trail, and bail when we meet challenges. We used to have high pay, great benefits and a long term commitment to employees, now it’s decreasing pay/benefits and a revolving door. We used to charge into new territories and countries, now we consolidate, contract and hang on by our fingernails. We used to deliver the best, no excuses. Now we deliver the best excuses. We used to fear nothing, now we fear the close of every quarter, the approach of every competitor, the sound of our manager’s footsteps in the hallway. By any measure the changes in culture have not been good for the company, the employee or long-run, our country. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/27/05: Received word that another team in the Schaumburg office that is on the Discovery team were told that their jobs were being moved to South America. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/27/05: To the author of the comments dated 8/26/05: "We used to hire from only top universities, now we hire from monster.com...........By any measure the changes in culture have not been good for the company, the employee or long-run, our country." Well said and very sad, indeed.
      honor, and fair employment practices - with disrespect for their customers and extremely poor customer support/service. It is a company void of leadership and industry knowledge or products/services consumers want. Today, everywhere you look in IBM you find employees who loath their managers, managers with no skills desperate to hang on to their high paying jobs. Managers with no knowledge of skills required of employees to execute the piece of the business for which that manager is responsible. You see poorly trained employees executing key projects with large margins of error. These errors are costly to both IBM and the customers. Instead of retaining skilled employees who can mentor others and improve project deployment and applications, IBM keeps cutting and cutting. For fear of loosing their jobs and lack of trust in IBM and their managers, these same employees are afraid to take the ridiculous surveys IBM has sent out lately, afraid of offering managers constructive suggestions, and afraid to admit they need help or need additional training. There is no longer a feeling of teamwork ~ instead it has become George Orwell's Animal Farm. IBM execs and management have absolute power and absolute power corrupts absolutely!
      I have had many people ask why IBM believes they are a company worth doing business with. My answer is always the same, "the execs and management of IBM believe IBM is a company worthy of your business because they are arrogant and clueless! It is a company with no foresight, leadership or direction. The execs have no respect for the consumer and believe you are so stupid, you will pay premium prices for "the new IBM" to provide you with inferior products, services and support. They don't care about you, your business or their employees. It is all about them getting all they can before they are asked to step down". In every case, people I have talked to made the decision to do business with a company other than IBM. When will IBM execs, managers and stock holders learn?
      IBM is rapidly becoming a fourth rate company without a product or services portfolio. They simply cannot compete. Many customers have said they are concerned about entrusting their databases and files to IBM ~ they are concerned about IBM's ability to ensure security for their networks and databases.
      After over 20 years with IBM, I was RA'd by a manager for whom I worked only 5 weeks. He knew nothing about me and nothing about my skills or what it took to do my job. I had always been rated a top performer and my personnel jacket lists a long string of awards for excellence and leadership. He didn't care and he never said he was sorry or hated to be the one to let me go. The ultimate insult came when he and my new second line manager both had the nerve to send me notes saying they didn't realize all that I had accomplished over my IBM career and wished they could have gotten to know me better.
      Does IBM management always shoot first and ask questions later? The bottom line was my new management was simply executing a " strong suggestion" from my former manager, someone with whom I "had issues". When I was transferred to the new manager she rid herself of any possible retribution allegations. Clever, eh? Not so clever...my peers figured out what they did. Management was never upright enough to correct the situation nor did they extend me the courtesy of an apology or say they cared. Shame on them and shame on IBM!
      Like many, many others, out of fear of being on the RA hit list, I didn't join the Alliance until after this happened to me. Shame on me! There IS strength in numbers. Your membership is kept confidential unless you want it to be known. Let's all take this opportunity to let IBM know we're mad as hell and we aren't going to just lie down and play dead while they reek havoc with our livelihood. IBM execs and most of the managers in place today are the ones who should be out of work, not us! -Anonymous-

IBM Nostalgia

Computerworld: Markup Languages. Excerpt: In 1969, three IBM researchers created GML, a formatting language for document publishing. Understood to mean Generalized Markup Language, the letters also happened to be the initials of its creators: Charles Goldfarb, Edward Mosher and Raymond Lorie.
GML allowed text editing and formatting, and it enabled information-retrieval subsystems to share documents. Instead of a simple tagging scheme, however, GML introduced the concept of a formally defined document type containing an explicit hierarchy of structured elements.
Major portions of GML were implemented in mainframe publishing systems, and the language achieved substantial industry acceptance. IBM adopted GML and produces over 90% of its documents with it.
GML was expanded with additional concepts, such as short references, link processes and concurrent document types, into Standard Generalized Markup Language. SGML made inroads in the publishing world, especially at the U.S. Government Printing Office, and it became an international standard in 1986.
Still, SGML was largely unknown until 1990, when Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, created Hypertext Markup Language as a subset of SGML. Soon, every type of document and data was being littered with tags at the beginning and end of text elements like this: <:tag>and<:/tag>. Then Extensible Markup Language (XML) came along in the late 1990s, and the IT world hasn't been the same since.
(Editor's note: In a variety of assignments during my IBM professional career, nearly all of my work over the past 28 years has involved markup languages...Script/GML, ISIL, BookMaster, BookManager, and now HTML. When the world quits using markup languages, it'll be time for me to retire!).
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