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Highlights—December 3, 2005
- New York Times: Age
of Anxiety. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Many eulogies were published
following the recent death of Peter Drucker, the great management theorist. I was
surprised, however, that few of these eulogies mentioned his book ''The Age of Discontinuity,''
a prophetic work that speaks directly to today's business headlines and economic
anxieties. Mr. Drucker wrote ''The Age of Discontinuity'' in the late 1960's, a time
when most people assumed that the big corporations of the day, companies like General
Motors and U.S. Steel, would dominate the economy for the foreseeable future. He
argued that this assumption was all wrong. [...]
American workers at big companies used to think they had made
a deal. They would be loyal to their employers, and the companies in turn would
be loyal to them, guaranteeing job security, health care and a dignified retirement.
Such deals were, in a real sense, the basis of America's postwar social order. We like
to think of ourselves as rugged individualists, not like those coddled Europeans with
their oversized welfare states. But as Jacob Hacker of Yale points out in his book ''The
Divided Welfare State,'' if you add in corporate spending on health care and pensions
-- spending that is both regulated by the government and subsidized by tax breaks --
we actually have a welfare state that's about as large relative to our economy as those
of other advanced countries.
The resulting system is imperfect: those who don't work for
companies with good benefits are, in effect, second-class citizens. Still, the system
more or less worked for several decades after World War II. Now, however, deals are
being broken and the system is failing. Remember, Delphi was once part of General Motors,
and its workers thought they were totally secure. What went wrong? An important part
of the answer is that America's semiprivatized welfare state worked in the first place
only because we had a stable corporate order. And that stability -- along with any semblance
of economic security for many workers -- is now gone. Regular readers of this column
know what I think we should do: instead of trying to provide economic security through
the back door, via tax breaks designed to encourage corporations to provide health care
and pensions, we should provide it through the front door, starting with national health
insurance. You may disagree. But one thing is clear: Mr. Drucker's age of discontinuity
is also an age of anxiety, in which workers can no longer count on loyalty from their
- In a Yahoo!
message board post, Janet Krueger answers this question:
Please tell me if I have a valid concern here. I finish my 30 years in
2011 and will be 53 years old. Let us say I retire at 53 with my 30 years of service
completed. Now, let us play the worse case scenario game. If the
US Government Pension Guarantee Corporation ends up with the responsibility
for IBM's pension obligations after I retire, will my pension checks stop
or be reduced until I reach the age of 65?
Ms. Krueger replies: I don't think you are even close to the
worst case scenario... In your case, the worst -- and most likely -- scenario,
based on what has happened with many of your colleagues who are a little older than
you, is that IBM will lay you off in 2009. This will leave you with a much reduced pension,
no health care benefits beyond Cobra, and no job.
Another bad and not impossible scenario is that IBM will convert
all the second choicers to a new, but lower, cash balance plan. It should be noted that
they can also convert the no-choicers from a cash balance plan that had 5% salary credits
to one that has 3% salary credits -- after all, the cash balance accounts are not real,
but just calculated based on the formula 'du jour'. This is especially likely if Congress
proceeds with legalizing such conversions without any protections for older workers.
Since the IBM pension fund was fully funded as of the last annual
report, there is little likelihood that the PBGC would step in, especially since
IBM has formed their new practise of laying off new employees before they vest in the
pension fund and laying off older employees before they reach full retirement -- the
policy isn't much good for individual employees, but it greatly enhances IBM's ability
to squeeze more virtual income from the pension fund!
- Washington Post Writers Group: Rescuing
the Fragile Private Pension System. By Marie Cocco. Excerpts: It is, perhaps, to be done in the grand tradition
of burning the village in order to save it. When the House of Representatives returns
from its Thanksgiving break next week, lawmakers are poised to give corporations
legal sanction to cut the pensions promised to millions of older workers in the name
of rescuing the fragile private pension system. Of course, this is not what they
say they are doing. [...]
Among the revisions is a change that makes legal the conversions
of traditional pensions to ``cash balance'' plans. This is a corporate cost-cutting
endeavor which, for years now, has been stymied by lawsuits and government regulation
as a form of illegal age discrimination. In a "cash balance" plan, workers earn
pension credits consistently over a lifetime of work. Older workers who were previously
covered by plans under which the amount of expected benefit would increase with
longevity -- with much of the eventual monthly pension amount determined in the
last years of work -- lose out.
The Government Accountability Office reported in October that
workers of all ages, not just those who are middle-aged, lose money when their
plans are converted to cash-balance pensions. Despite corporate claims that the
cash-balance pensions are great for young workers, a typical 30-year-old still
loses about $59 a month in promised benefits when a traditional pension is converted,
the GAO found. [...]
The harsh treatment of middle-aged workers is the basis of
dozens of age-discrimination suits. IBM pension beneficiaries, in fact, won a $1.7
billion settlement after a successful federal lawsuit. But such an injustice against
the corporate bottom line, House Republican leaders believe, must not stand. So
they immediately moved to make sure no future group of employees could win an age-discrimination
claim. Tucked into the larger pension bill is language that basically pronounces
cash-balance plans to be free of such discrimination. [...]
The Senate bill represents the sort of trade-off that used
to be common practice, but has become nearly extinct in this era of one-party political
control and bare-knuckles partisanship. Roughly put, if corporations are entitled to
legal protection from age discrimination claims, then older workers who are caught short
in cash-balance conversions are entitled to have their benefits protected. This is not
what companies want. The point of converting the pension is, after all, to save corporate
money. So what if it comes out of the checks of future retirees? The trouble is that
a Congress that blithely does the bidding of its corporate donor-masters is a Congress
which has abandoned any pretense of representing the public. Surely House Republicans
-- already beset by scandals, public disillusionment over Iraq and a pervasive sense
among the citizenry that things have gone off track -- don't want to contend with campaign
ads next year that charge them with robbing retirees of $238 a month. Or do they?
- ZDNet UK: Record
rise in overseas IT workers. By Karen Gomm. Excerpts: As many as
22,000 foreign IT workers were issued with work permits for the UK last year, of
whom 85 percent were from India, according to a report by the Association of Technology
Staffing Companies (ATSCO), which extracted the figures from the Home Office. Ann
Swain, chief executive of ATSCO, said the UK is not only outsourcing low level IT
jobs to India but is also receiving high level expertise from the region. "The
transfer of jobs between the UK and India is now very much two way traffic. "The
irony is that while low-skilled IT jobs continue to be shipped to India, highly skilled
Indian IT professionals are coming to the UK to take up managerial roles," she
said. [...] PayScale, which claims to be the largest database of employee salary
information in the world, said a seasoned software programmer in India is currently
paid $11,423 (£6,649) a year, roughly one fifth of a UK equivalent.
- Los Angeles Times: As
Profits Surge, Workers Still Wait. By Tom
Petruno. Excerpts: This is Wall Street's version of comfort food: Corporate earnings
keep rising at a double-digit pace while workers are lucky to get even low-single-digit
wage increases. For the last few years, those trends have been dependable and soothing
for many stock market bulls — if not for the average worker. It's a world in
which share prices are underpinned by healthy earnings while inflation risks are
muted because employee pay isn't in danger of an upward spiral. [...] As for the
workers whose toil is producing these handsome results, wages and salaries for all
private-industry employees rose 2.2% in the 12 months ended Sept. 30, according to
the government's employment cost index. That was down from a 2.6% increase in the
year ended September 2004. Add in benefits such as healthcare coverage, and total
employment costs were up 3% in the most recent 12 months, compared with 3.7% in the
previous period, government data show.
- NewsMax: GM
CEO Secures $4.6 Million Pension. By Carl Limbacher. Excerpts:
As General Motors slashes jobs, closes plants and battles to avoid bankruptcy, the
company’s CEO has set up a retirement plan that will pay him at least $4.6 million
a year – nearly twice his current salary. G. Richard Wagoner, who the New York
Post calls "the greediest, most undeserving CEO since Chainsaw Al Dunlap,” was
named GM’s chief financial officer in 1992, when the company had a global payroll
of 750,000 employees. Under Wagoner’s command as CFO and, since 2000, CEO, the
carmaker has seen its employees dwindle to 324,000. [...] The carmaker’s pension
fund is under-funded by more than $45 billion, according to the Post. But Wagoner has
nothing to worry about. He has a Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan, which allows
a company to use after-tax dollars "that rightly belong to shareholders to shower
riches on the CEO instead,” the Post reports.
- New York Times: Sometimes,
a Tax Cut for the Wealthy Can Hurt the Wealthy. By Robert
H. Frank. Excerpts: WHEN market forces cause income inequality to grow, public policy
in most countries tends to push in the opposite direction. In the United States,
however, we enact tax cuts for the wealthy and cut public services for the needy.
Cynics explain this curious inversion by saying that the wealthy have captured the
political process in Washington and are exploiting it to their own advantage. This
explanation makes sense, however, only if those in power have an extremely naïve
understanding of their own interests. A careful reading of the evidence suggests
that even the wealthy have been made worse off, on balance, by recent tax cuts. The
private benefits of these cuts have been much smaller, and their indirect costs much
larger, than many recipients appear to have anticipated. [...]
On the cost side of the ledger, the federal budget deficits
created by the recent tax cuts have had serious consequences, even for the wealthy.
These deficits will exceed $300 billion for each of the next six years, according to
projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The most widely reported
consequences of the deficits have been cuts in government programs that serve the nation's
poorest families. And since the wealthy are well represented in our political system,
their favored programs may seem safe from the budget ax. Wealthy families have further
insulated themselves by living in gated communities and sending their children to private
schools. Yet such steps go only so far. For example, deficits have led to cuts in federal
financing for basic scientific research, even as the United States' share of global
patents granted continues to decline. Such cuts threaten the very basis of our long-term
economic prosperity. As Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, said: ''We
thought we'd keep the high-end jobs, and others would take the low-end jobs. We're now
on track to a second-rate economy and a second-rate country.''
- New York Times: Middle
Class Gets in Line for Help With Rising Heating Bills. By Paul Vitello. Excerpts: The main government assistance office in Suffolk
County sits just off a busy road in an office park surrounded by a neighborhood of
deep lawns and two-car garages. Everyone for miles around uses that road every day.
But until recently, hardly anyone from the neighborhood -- people whose status in the
middle class was thought secured unquestionably by homeownership -- ever turned into
the office park to seek help inside the county's nondescript building. This year, they
have come in from the fear of the cold. They are retirees, young couples, the temporarily
unemployed, the two-income families stretched to the limit of second mortgages and
credit cards, a slice of the suburban demographic that social workers call ''mortgage
rich and pocket poor.'' The cost of natural gas heat, already high, has risen 50 percent
since last year. Home heating oil prices are up 30 percent. What that means for the
larger economy will be divined by economists.
- National Public Radio: Health
Care Costs and the Future of U.S. Labor (audio). Day to Day, November 23, 2005 · Madeleine Brand discusses the national
employment outlook with Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International
Union, the largest and fastest-growing union in the United States. Stern warns that
mass layoffs -- such as those announced earlier this week by GM, which plans to shed
30,000 workers and close North American production facilities -- will continue unless
the United States moves away from a health care system that places most of the financial
burden on employers.
- New York Times: Gimme
an Rx! Cheerleaders Pep Up Drug Sales. By Stephanie
Saul. Excerpts: As an ambitious college student, Cassie Napier had all the right
moves -- flips, tumbles, an ever-flashing America's sweetheart smile -- to prepare
for her job after graduation. She became a drug saleswoman. Ms. Napier, 26, was a star
cheerleader on the national-champion University of Kentucky squad, which has been a
springboard for many careers in pharmaceutical sales. She now plies doctors' offices
selling the antacid Prevacid for TAP Pharmaceutical Products. Ms. Napier says the skills
she honed performing for thousands of fans helped land her job. ''I would think, essentially,
that cheerleaders make good sales people,'' she said. Anyone who has seen the parade
of sales representatives through a doctor's waiting room has probably noticed that
they are frequently female and invariably good looking. Less recognized is the fact
that a good many are recruited from the cheerleading ranks.
- Computerworld: Firm
that underpaid H-1B workers to pay fine, $2.25M in back wages. By Patrick Thibodeau.
Excerpt: Computech was founded in 1996, and the settlement covers violations alleged
to have occurred between 1998 and 2000. Within two years of its founding, the company
had brought on more than 200 foreign workers. The company failed to pay these workers
minimum required wage rates and “frequently” benched
workers, the DOL said in a statement. Benching refers to the practice of not paying
workers in between contracting jobs.
- Computerworld: Analysis: Antioffshoring
legislation heats up.
Some measures seek to end the offshore outsourcing of jobs altogether. By Nancy Weil.
Excerpts: Groups of service and blue-collar workers have mobilized to support laws
restricting offshoring. Rescue American Jobs, for instance, has a legislation tracker
on its Web site and has as its mission the task of “building the largest American
workforce mobilization in history” in response to outsourcing and offshoring.
The group, based in Pittsburgh and supported by the United Steelworkers of America,
contends that offshoring is a consequence of “executive greed” and urges
its members to action.
On the other side of the spectrum is the Technology CEO Council,
a group of leading IT companies, including Dell Inc., Intel Corp., IBM and Motorola
Inc. The group posts on its Web site “10 common myths about worldwide sourcing,” including
a fact that even some in the antioffshoring movement will acknowledge: that the number
of U.S. jobs lost to offshoring is a small percentage of the total workforce.
- Washington Post: Pensions
Unzipped. By Abigail Trafford. Excerpts:
Tis the season for calendars, and the grabber this holiday season is the "Stewardesses
Stripped (of their Pension?)" calendar for 2006. It features five gorgeous 50-plus
women in the buff, covered with enough feathers to permit display in the kitchen
but showing enough skin to get public attention. These current and former flight
attendants for United Airlines are protesting the loss of their company-funded pensions
and they make Diane Keaton, the menopausal chick icon of the movie "Something's
Gotta Give," seem like a Victorian prude.
- Wall Street Journal, courtesy of Factiva: Gray
Is Good: Employers Make Efforts To Retain Older, Experienced Workers. By Sue Shellenbarger. Excerpts:
Traditionally, many employers have viewed older workers as inflexible, less productive
than their younger colleagues, and more expensive because of higher salaries and
health-care costs. When hard times force layoffs, older workers are often the first
to get the ax. But now, many employers are at least giving lip service to retaining
older workers. And a few are taking concrete steps to actually do so -- seeking out
older workers and retirees with needed skills, rooting out age bias, and setting
up complex flexible work arrangements tailored to their needs. [...]
Some companies are recognizing that older workers are repositories
of hard-to-replace knowledge critical to their businesses, says Eric Lesser, an associate
partner in Cambridge, Mass., with IBM Business Consulting Services. As workers retire,
companies worry about losing relationships with suppliers and distributors, as well
as the ability to maintain aging equipment, such as plants, machinery or other gear
built to past standards, he says.
- W.P. Carey School of Business: Dubious
Protection: New Medicare Drug Coverage Could Erode Retiree Perks. Excerpts: If Congress gives it, will employers
take it away? That was a question lawmakers considered when debating prescription
drug coverage as a new Medicare add-on. In fact, the Medicare Modernization Act of
2003 provides $71 billion over the next 10 years to reward and repay employers who
keep "qualified" retiree
drug coverage in place. This year, it looks like most employers will take the bait
and enjoy the cash subsidy. But what about next year? The shrinking prevalence of
employer-sponsored health insurance is a longstanding trend, and many foresee further
erosion to retiree benefits ahead.
- Nostalgia from IBM: IBM
attire. The way we wore: A century of IBM attire. Excerpt: It wasn't too long ago that some observers said that IBMers wore
a uniform of pin-striped suits, white button-down shirts, rep ties and wing-tipped
shoes. Who us? While it may have been true there was a time such attire was not uncommon
in IBM offices, it is also true that pin-striped suits, white button-down shirts, rep
ties and wing-tipped shoes were not unique to IBM -- then or now. In fact, IBM men
and women, like people everywhere, have tended to dress pretty much in the fashions
prevailing in their own period and place. As the style of business clothing around
the world has evolved and varied with the passage of time, so too has the appearance
of IBMers changed from year to year and from locale to locale. Here -- in a kind of
diversity fashion timeline -- is an album of just some of the many people in many countries
who helped to make IBM a 20th century global success. And, aside from a baseball team
in 1938, there's not a uniform among them.
on the Alliance@IBM Site:
- Alliance@IBM: Attention IBM employees:
IBM is blocking e-mail to and from the Alliance@IBM e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
- WashTech News: Bitter
Holidays for Nestle USA “Associates” Extensive
Outsourcing Sends Work Offshore via HP and IBM. By Dan Gillespie.
France union's press release on "Sold off IBMers" job
cuts. Excerpt: IBM sub-contracts its layoffs to AMCC. Sold by IBM to AMCC for
almost $300 million over the past 2 years, 45 employees are now losing their
jobs. On Nov. 29, 2005, AMCC France announced to its workers council that it
will cut 45 jobs, or nearly half of its employees there. It is likely that
all of these cuts will be made through layoffs.
- From the Visitor's
comment page and the Job
Cuts Status & Comments page.
- Comment 12/01/05: Widespread staff layoffs were announced in the US yesterday.
Hardest hit was the marketing organization, which was cut 15%. This explains
the sudden resignation of Abby Kohnstamm, senior VP of Marketing, that
was announced by Sam Palmisano on 11/14. Legal, finance, and operations
also suffered layoffs. Many of the affected were in the White Plains & Somers
areas, but others worked from home throughout the country. Ironically,
the cuts were across the board, affecting even people supporting business
units that were "making their numbers". Quite demoralizing seeing
that hard work and good results don't translate into job security. But
Sam will make his numbers. -Anonymous-
- Comment 12/02/05: Dear IBM'ers, If you've recently received an offer
to sever your relationship with IBM, don't call it a layoff, you were fired.
Appeal everything, if you are going to leave the company, you will want
to take every option available to you. Including the Internal Appeals process.
If IBM is going to turn it's back on you, fight back and by all means,
join the Alliance@IBM. I did! -Steve-
- Comment 12/02/05: Canada is going through the same as Comment 12/01/05
Widespread staff layoffs were announced in the US yesterday. People are
just being escorted to the door and told to get lost. Marketing and Operations,
Canada is having a great year then this crap. Sure glad we are spending
5-7M making the HQ parking lot bigger and remodeling modules at HQ. What
a fxxxxxg lost company. -Anonymous-
- Comment 12/03/05: Dear IBM'ers, would a Canadian employee please send
a copy of the severance package they are receiving from IBM. The Alliance
would like to compare the US and Canadian severance packages. -Steve-
- Comment 11/30/05: Band and Salary Re-assignments: Here's the next thing
IBM is starting to do to existing employees. Yesterday, a co-worker notified
me that they had just had call with their manager. The manager informed
them, they had to find another job or be re-banded to a lower level and
take a salary cut. Get ready everyone, this is the next move this company
is taking to make the Executives look like heroes to the "head-in-the-sand" stockholders
and "smell like three day old dead fish" to the IBM workers.
Question: What is the Alliance for IBM workers and retirees going to do
to help the employees from doing this? You've been organizing for several
years now, collecting dues, saying a lot of good things.... but - we're
not seeing any results at all. Isn't it about time - the Alliance does
- Comment 12/02/05: Sam's been watching too much Grinch or Scrooge, I'm
surprised he isn't asking people if they want the whole day off on the
25th and to be back all the earlier the next day because Christmas is just
a poor excuse to pick IBM's pocket every 25th of December. Oh well, nice
to see he's making it up with more layoffs. We used to have a record store
up here in Canada called Sam The Record man, but IBM has Sam The Family
Wrecker man. -Anonymous-