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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—August 25, 2007

  • Accounting Web: IBM & PwC to pay more than $5.2 million to settle kickback complaints. Excerpt: IBM Corporation and PricewaterhouseCoopers have together agreed to pay the United States more than $5.2 million to settle allegations that the companies solicited and provided improper payments and other things of value on technology contracts with government agencies, the Justice Department announced last week. IBM has agreed to pay $2,972,038.50, while PWC will pay $2,316,662.
  • CNN/Money: IBM paid lobbyist nearly $120,000. Excerpt: International Business Machines Corp. paid Monument Policy Group nearly $120,000 to lobby the federal government in the first half of 2007, according to a disclosure form. The firm lobbied on legislation related to cargo security, international trade, immigration and other issues, according to a form posted online Aug. 8 by the Senate's public records office. Besides Congress, the firm lobbied the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.
  • CNN: For returning moms, companies roll out the welcome mat. Excerpts: Once regarded as a career setback, taking extended time off work to care for children is no longer a liability as businesses fight to hold onto valuable female executives. A growing number of companies are rolling out lavish welcome mats for returning women, offering a spate of options that ease the transition back. [...]

    At IBM, many women work with managers to map out a personalized strategy for returning before going on extended leave. At Deloitte & Touche, employees can dial workloads up or down depending on personal needs.

  • Working Mother magazine 2006 100 Best Companies. Excerpts: FLEX APPEAL This highly mom-friendly IT giant believes that an employee's presence in the office doesn't necessarily equal performance. To help staffers work when and where they want, IBM offers flextime, compressed work schedules, and part-time and telecommuting options, without penalizing employees who choose these benefits in terms of their career development or promotion opportunities. [...]

    LEAVES WE LOVE. Mothers receive eight weeks of fully paid maternity leave. Many take advantage of the Flexible Work Leave of Absence, which gives them the option of working a reduced schedule instead of taking a full leave. Interested in staying home with your baby for a few years? The company's generous leave policy allows new mothers to take up to three years of unpaid job-guaranteed time off.

  • Yahoo! message board post "LOA fraud" by "annoyedibmer". Full excerpt: I have been on an extended maternity leave of absence. I am due to return to work soon, but was told by my first line that there is no budget to bring me back. I was told that I had the option of extending my leave or resigning. I responded by asking, well, what about my LOA letter that states: "Upon expiration of your time off, you are entitled to return to the position you held immediately prior to the time off, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay and terms and conditions."

    The response was, uuhhh...I don't know, let me see what HR says. So, after a week+ of going round and round with HR, I get the answer that this statement only applies to the FMLA entitlement period. Ummm, ok, if that is the case, then why didn't the letter state "Upon expiration of the FMLA entitlement period..."?

    So, according to HR and my first line, I have 30 days to find a job, extend my leave, or resign. That gets them out of a severance package for actually laying me off, and leaves me without income and children to support.

    I suppose it is my fault for being so naive to trust that IBM would really come through with work-life flexibility and supporting the working mother. So much for the profile from Working Mother Magazine that states "The company's generous leave policy allows new mothers to take up to three years of unpaid *job-guaranteed* time off." Yeah, right.

  • Yahoo! message board post "Re: LOA fraud" by "Mike". Full excerpt: Annoyed, Sorry to hear your story. More and more of this is going on. The short term disability (STD) paper work now states in the last paragraph that when you return from STD you may be down leveled. transferred out of state or let go. NICE POLICIES.

    I am heading out for a second hand surgery that is covered under workman's comp. I was told that any time off over three days will require the STD forms be sent to HR. I fought this the first time saying it was not disability but WORKMANS COMP. I was told if I wanted to come back to work I had to have the doctor send the form. A no win game.

    So, under the new game rules if you get sick and are out more than three days they can push the STD in your face and suddenly close your position. Good luck on your fight !

  • Yahoo! message board post "Re: LOA fraud" by "ibmoptioneer". Full excerpt: As IBM's star continues to set in the horizon we see more and more of this behavior. The only thing that IBM fears is the press and damage to that fragile brand image.

    I'd suggest another call with HR and your manager, but this time call up Working Mother magazine or a a local station and tell them you have a juicy story of a flagging multinational that's lied to the press, namely them. Have them join the call, unannounced. Then ask the manager and HR why the change in policy...is IBM in financial problems? Then watch them dance.

    You have nothing to lose. Damage the brand. Give them no quarter.

  • Yahoo! message board post "Re: LOA fraud" by "ibmoptioneer". Full excerpt: Annoyed, I am operating under the assumption that what you have said is correct. You have a golden opportunity, but you must act right now.

    In newspapers this week, there is a lead business article by the AP titled "Firms Roll Out Welcome Mats For Returning Moms" written by Candice Choi. In it, the article state: "At IBM, many women work with managers to map out a personalized strategy for returning before going on extended leave."

    Obviously someone is either totally misinformed or is completely complicit in a conspiracy to mislead the Associated Press.

    Time to call or e-mail Candice Choi and advise her she's either been lied to by IBM Communications or she's a liar.

    Don't let this cabal of the HR person and your local manager off the hook. As they realize they've been caught, HR will ask for forgiveness and understanding. Answer back to the HR investigator and communications people that these two can ponder about it on the unemployment line. As a female attorney married to recently departed IBMer, this makes my blood boil.

    They are counting on your weakness because you are a decent person. Don't give them any quarter. Damage the brand. That's the only way this company's shareholders will realize what the senior management is doing to them. Contact Candice Choi. If not, contact your local press and show them the article and describe them your plight. That ought to get things going. I sent her an email with a link to this board.

    Consider joining the Alliance and talk about this incident to your friends to spur them into joining the Alliance as well. We can only bring these lies to the surface with the truth.

  • Yahoo! message board post: "Re: LOA fraud" by "bits_bytes_and_bugs". Full excerpt: Another possibility to research. Some more "progressive" states dictate more protection for an employee on STD or family leave than the Feds. IBM seems to ignore such laws on a regular basis.

    I'd recommend that you contact your state's Department of Labor and Department of Human Rights to understand your legal rights - a second opinion may be helpful - in fact some states may take up your fight on your behalf.

    The issue that may be a stickler in your case is is the old "reserve the right to change" clause.

  • Yahoo! message board post: "From the Alliance@IBM re: OT legal complaint" by "Adrian Rice". Full excerpt: I spoke with Erik Langeland today, and this lawsuit is the real deal. It is based on the case of an IBM rep who, after bringing the complaint, an IBM sales executive admitted that his kind of job deserved overtime pay -- but there was no budget to pay him or his colleagues any overtime. Now Erik is gathering other sales reps who were or are in a similar situation -- going back to 2004. The eligible reps are those who do not spend the majority of their time physically calling on customers in customer offices. If you are a rep who spends most of your time working the phones, with occasional customer trips, you are eligible to join the class and should call Erik.

    As a Band 10 business development executive, I admit I laughed at first at the idea of being paid overtime. But the fact is that I have not worked less than 65 hours a week in many years -- and managers are pretty brazen in their demands for admin baloney, such as participation in conference calls at 5am local time because it's convenient for them to hold a call at 8am Eastern time -- and endless requests for annoying reports that have to be done outside of customer time. I would not mind being paid overtime for doing this crap, for sure!

  • Yahoo! message board post: "ADDITIONAL REPLY: Re: OT legal complaint for Sales Reps 08212007" by John Mellon. Full excerpt: I also spoke to Erik Langeland for about 1-2 hours a few days ago. It looks like it could be good for a lot of folks that got screwed monetarily by IBM including yours truly. The one concern will be a statute of limitations on how far back in years can this case go. In my case it was back about 5 years; it may be too long; don't know yet but will wait it out.
  • Yahoo! message board post: "Dear IBM and Ex IBM Employees," by "thekanck". Excerpt: I have not read the briefing on this case, but many OT lawsuits are based on the labor laws that define some types of work as being "exempt" from overtime pay and some types as NOT being exempt. If the sales folks were doing the type of work that, as defined by the government, is entitled to OT pay then IBM should pay them for it...

    Kinda like the batch of lawsuits sometime back were fast-food employees were made "assistant managers" and put on salary but then spend most of a 50 or 60 hour week mopping floors and and cleaning bathrooms without OT comp.

  • New York Times: 2005 Incomes, on Average, Still Below 2000 Peak. By David Cay Johnston. Excerpts: Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion, new government data shows. [...]

    Total income listed on tax returns grew every year after World War II, with a single one-year exception, until 2001, making the five-year period of lower average incomes and four years of lower total incomes a new experience for the majority of Americans born since 1945. [...]

    The growth in total incomes was concentrated among those making more than $1 million. The number of such taxpayers grew by more than 26 percent, to 303,817 in 2005, from 239,685 in 2000.

    These individuals, who constitute less than a quarter of 1 percent of all taxpayers, reaped almost 47 percent of the total income gains in 2005, compared with 2000.

    People with incomes of more than a million dollars also received 62 percent of the savings from the reduced tax rates on long-term capital gains and dividends that President Bush signed into law in 2003, according to a separate analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, a group that points out policies that it says favor the rich.

    The group’s calculations showed that 28 percent of the investment tax cut savings went to just 11,433 of the 134 million taxpayers, those who made $10 million or more, saving them almost $1.9 million each. Over all, this small number of wealthy Americans saved $21.7 billion in taxes on their investment income as a result of the tax-cut law.

    The nearly 90 percent of Americans who make less than $100,000 a year saved on average $318 each on their investments. They collected 5.3 percent of the total savings from reduced tax rates on investment income.

  • Wall Street Journal: With Labor Crunch in IT on the Horizon, Why Are Careers Failing to Lure Women? By Ben Worthen. Excerpts: The percentage of women working in information-technology departments, which wasn't high to begin with, is dropping. with an IT-labor crunch looming, it's time to ask: What is it about it that may be repelling half the population?

    While women hold 51% of all professional positions in the work force, they only made up 26% of IT pros in 2006, down from 29% in 2004, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology. Only 13% of corporate officers at Fortune 500 tech companies are women. And Jenny Slade, communications director for the NCWIT, tells the Business Technology Blog that women who do pursue IT careers tend to leave them at a higher rate than men.

    "Women feel discrimination in IT," Ms. Slade says. Indeed, a recent survey of nearly 2,000 female IT workers by Women in Technology International found that 48% say that their views aren't as acknowledged or welcomed as those of their male colleagues, and 44% say that they have fewer opportunities to participate in or lead large initiatives. Consequently, women feel they need to leave IT in order to advance, says Ms. Slade. Over time this becomes self-perpetuating: Women say that one of the main reasons they leave IT is that there aren't other women in the field, says Ms. Slade.

  • The Street: IBM Buys Web Conferencing Firm. By Daniel Del'Re. Excerpt: IBM moved on Wednesday to fill a gap in its product portfolio by buying a firm that provides Web conferences over the Internet. IBM said it has acquired privately owned WebDialogs and will meld it into the company's software group. The deal gives IBM the technology it needs to build a videoconferencing option into its Lotus Notes suite of business programs. Lotus is IBM's most widely used software, with 135 million licenses worldwide.
  • Business Week, courtesy of Yahoo! Finance: Labor Shortages: Myth and Reality. By Moira Herbst. Excerpts: How tight is the U.S. labor market? At 4.6% of the workforce, the official unemployment rate is certainly low by historical standards. In industries from agriculture to construction, to health care and high tech, employers complain that there aren't enough workers to fill positions (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/9/07, "Where Are All the Workers?").

    Many fear it'll get worse in the wake of the Bush Administration's decision to crack down on undocumented workers. Construction companies say offices and highways may not get built. Farmers talk of crops rotting in the fields, as illegal immigrants flee and Americans refuse to take up the plow. "Who will be there to put meat and vegetables on American dinner tables?" says Craig Regelbrugge, co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform and spokesman for the American Nursery & Landscape Assn. "The only unaffected group will be Americans who do not eat." (See BusinessWeek.com, 8/14/07, "Immigration Rules: An Economic Disaster?"). [...]

    David Rosenberg isn't buying it. A North American economist at Merrill Lynch, he is one of a number of economists who say the concerns about too few workers are vastly overblown. Rosenberg recently studied the issue and put out a report entitled Is There a Labor Shortage? If employers are having trouble filling jobs, "perhaps they're not looking hard enough," he says.

    The issue may not be the number of workers, but rather the level of pay. Economists like Rosenberg argue that in a market economy, there's really no such thing as a true shortage. If you want more of something, you can pay more and have it. When employers say that there's a worker shortage, what they really mean is they can't get enough workers at the price they want to pay, the argument goes. "While it makes for nice cocktail conversation, the data aren't saying there is an acute labor shortage in this country," Rosenberg says. [...]

    Rosenberg argues the simplest way to gauge whether there's a worker shortage is to look at the price of labor. According to the basic laws of economics, the tighter the supply of labor, the more it should cost. So if the economy were operating with full or near-full employment, we would be seeing an "explosion in labor compensation," he says. [...]

    Most Americans certainly aren't finding their incomes exploding. The wages of 80% of the U.S. workforce -- made up of nonsupervisory workers -- have been stagnating since the late-1990s boom ended. On Aug. 20, the government released data that showed the average household income increased 4.1% in 2005, to $55,238. But that's still below the average household income in 2000.

  • CNET News: Photos of computers of yesteryear.
  • Thrivent Financial for Lutherans: Baby Boomers and Retirement: A Generation’s Catch-22. America’s Largest Generation Faces a Large Gap Between Retirement Readiness and Expectations. [PDF]. Excerpts: A couple of paradoxical themes emerged from the survey:
    • While boomers are generally optimistic about retirement, with 56 percent believing that they will have the same or an even better standard of living than their parents, only 20 percent believe they will worry less about money than their parents.
    • Seventy-one percent of baby boomers cite a lack of money as the single greatest issue that might prevent them from accomplishing their envisioned retirement, yet most boomers (59 percent) surveyed have not done any formal retirement planning.
    • While 86 percent stated that they would advise younger generations to start saving for retirement as soon as possible, nearly a quarter have not taken action toward saving for their own retirement.
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • CBS News: 10 Questions: More About Health Care. Posted by Katie Couric. Excerpts: Right now, in the heat of August, we’ve decided to take the temperature of health care in America. It promises to be a big issue in the ’08 election, but often we don’t start learning about its intricacies until faced with serious health issues of our own. Then, the medical bills start piling up on the kitchen table, and you just don’t know where to begin. [...]

    1. If you could change ONE thing about our health care system, what would that be? The financing. Instead of hundreds of profit-seeking health insurers, money should be collected and bills paid by a single government payer. At present, insurance company overhead and the paperwork that inflicts on doctors and hospitals wastes more than $350 billion a year — money that could cover the uninsured and eliminate co-payments and deductibles for those who currently have partial coverage. Progressive income taxes would be paid, just as we now do for other financially socialized benefits such as libraries, the police, schools, Social Security and, in the health area, for Medicare. Because of the huge administrative savings, a single payer system could cover everyone without expending any more dollars.

  • Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Target The Individual Market. Aetna, WellPoint, Others Roll Out Policies That Cater to People Who Lack Employer Coverage; Stripping Out Maternity Care. By M.P. McQueen. Excerpts: Health insurers are targeting the two groups of people least likely to be covered by insurance at work -- young people in their 20s and 30s, and early retirees who don't yet qualify for Medicare.

    Companies including Aetna Inc. and WellPoint Inc. have recently begun offering individual health-insurance packages tailored for young adults, the fastest-growing population of uninsured Americans. Besides basic medical coverage, the packages also often include such benefits as teeth whitening and gym-membership discounts, because insurers say many young people are especially concerned about looking good. But to keep the policies affordable -- Humana Inc. packages start at $26 a month, for example -- the plans usually have high deductibles of as much as thousands of dollars a year and strip out some coverage that could be important, such as maternity care and brand-name prescription drugs. [...]

    Insurers are expanding their insurance offerings for individuals in part because of the dwindling share of employers -- especially smaller companies -- offering health benefits in recent years. Though the new plans could meet some of the needs of a number of young and older people, they won't necessarily reach those among the roughly 45 million uninsured Americans most in need of health coverage. That's because the new plans currently are available mainly in states where looser regulations allow insurers greater leeway to cull prospective policyholders, and thus choose the healthiest people as customers. [...]

    Some regulators are critical of some of the new policies. "The Tonik program is specifically designed to create a significant profit for the insurance company," says John Garamendi, California's lieutenant governor and former insurance commissioner. "It is designed to cover everything that a 19- to 34-year-old is not going to need. That happens to be the principal childbearing age, and it doesn't cover pregnancy," he says.

  • Los Angeles Times: Medicare drugs too costly for many, survey finds. One in five enrollees say they have put off or skipped buying prescriptions. Low-income seniors do not know that an additional government subsidy is available. By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar. Excerpts: Most seniors who lacked prescription coverage in past years now have it, thanks to the Medicare drug benefit, but in a survey released today one in five enrollees said they had put off or even skipped getting some medications because of the program's high costs. [...]

    Democrats seized on the findings as evidence that the benefit is not working well for those who need it most: seniors who have several chronic illnesses and must take a number of medications.

    "It's a system basically designed to create profits for private insurance plans," said Rep. Pete Stark (D-Fremont), chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health. "I don't want to see it repealed, but I want to see it repaired."

  • Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report: Older Residents Say Premiums Under Massachusetts' Insurance Law Are Unaffordable. Excerpt: Prices for unsubsidized health insurance plans in Massachusetts can be twice as expensive for older residents as compared to plans available for younger adults, and the state has made no "special accommodations" for older people to help them comply with the health insurance law, the Boston Globe reports.

    Massachusetts requires all residents to obtain insurance. Those who do not qualify for state-subsidized coverage can apply for a waiver, and if their insurance premiums are deemed unaffordable, they will be exempt from paying penalties for not obtaining insurance. While Massachusetts allows for pricing based on age, the insurance mandate, "combined with the new ability to compare plans on the Internet," is "leading to a mini-revolt," according to the Globe.

  • US News & World Report: An Ailment Could Delay or Rule Out Healthcare Coverage. By Michelle Andrews. Excerpts: People buy health insurance for protection from financial responsibility if they fall sick. But, in what amounts to a Catch-22, being sick, whether it's something as mild as hay fever or as severe as heart disease, can be grounds for a health plan to deny coverage. The denial might apply only to the pre-existing malady and perhaps only for a specified length of time—or it might rule out health insurance altogether.

    In insurance terms, pre-existing conditions can encompass any medical problem you have now or may have had years ago. If the ailment (or the history of it) makes you a high-risk patient, insurers and employers know that covering you could prove to be expensive. When people discover they're subject to a pre-existing condition exclusion, "they're completely stunned and dismayed, and they feel abandoned," says Nancy Davenport-Ennis, founder and CEO of the National Patient Advocate Foundation, which helps people access and pay for medical treatment. Her group supports a recently introduced bill that would limit the impact of these exclusions on patients. [...]

    The problem isn't going away and may be getting worse. According to a study by the Commonwealth Fund, a health policy think tank, 2 million people lost their health insurance in any given month between 1996 and 1999, and 38 percent of adults under age 65 were uninsured at some point during that period. With employer-provided coverage on the decline and the number of uninsured rising, more people are likely to be without health coverage for periods of time, says study coauthor Pamela Farley Short, a professor of health policy and administration at Pennsylvania State University. The result? More people, even relatively healthy ones, may find themselves in a no-win situation, either unable to buy insurance at all or faced with a policy that covers them for everything except the very condition they most need coverage for.

  • The Ann Arbor News, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program: Single-payer coverage already works in U.S. By James C. Mitchiner. Excerpts: The recent launch of health reform in Massachusetts, centered on a joint individual-employer mandate, calls to mind the approach taken by Michigan’s road repair crews to the potholes that appear in the spring: cosmetic, incremental, and oblivious to the crumbling infrastructure that lies beneath.

    The hallmark of health care reform over the last 20 years, regardless of whether it’s been done on the state or federal level, has been to fix the cracks, fill in the holes and smooth over the rough spots - basically, anything that’s needed to prop up a fundamentally flawed system. We have seen state and federal reform proposals in various iterations, generally presented with great fanfare and with promises that were either short-lived or never materialized.

    The one approach we haven’t tried - because of fear, complacency, politics, apathy, or all of the above - is to wring out the inefficiencies in financing, while maintaining our basic fee-for-service delivery model. This is the basic premise behind single-payer national health insurance.

    It is sad that so many people see red when they hear the term “single-payer.” One imagines them conjuring up visions of rampant socialism, with all the epithets inherent in that moniker: massive governmental bureaucracy, indiscriminate rationing, crushing tax burden, long waits for care, incompetent graft-prone civil servants.

    But I would like to think that reasonable people would look beyond the inflammatory rhetoric that disparages single-payer, and at least consider the potential salutary benefits.

    Consider first the enormous administrative costs inherent in our current pluralistic “system,” one that is dominated by 1,200 private health insurers. These costs use up money that is detoured from acute and preventive medical care. We spend about 31 cents of every health care dollar on administration; Canada, with its single-payer system, spends just 17 cents. Each year, we pay more and seemingly get less, as the insurance companies attempt to restrict access and impose upon employees more restrictive cost-sharing arrangements while collecting higher profits. Employers are scaling back their employee health insurance coverage, with the result that more people are being priced out of the insurance market. And the inability to pay medical bills is responsible for about half of the personal bankruptcies filed each year in the U.S.

    Single-payer is not “socialized medicine,” a term that is reserved for a system where the government owns the hospitals and the physicians are civil servants. Rather, a single-payer arrangement combines a private health care delivery system with public financing and puts everyone in a common risk pool. It reduces administrative inefficiencies and severs the link between employment and health care, making health insurance truly portable.

    Single-payer would lead to a reduction in out-of-pocket expenses by reducing deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance. It would give you the freedom to select your own doctor and hospital, without first obtaining “preauthorization” by your current managed care plan. It would reduce health care disparities between Caucasians and under-represented minorities. And it would nurture free enterprise by ending the struggle of American companies to keep up with escalating health care costs, which makes them less competitive in a global market. [...]

    Single-payer would consolidate administrative functions, simplify billing, streamline claims management for patients and providers, and reduce costs. The Government Accountability Office has estimated that administrative savings from a single-payer system would be in excess of $200 billion annually, more than enough to cover those who are presently uninsured. Of course, a modest increase in payroll taxes would pay for it, but at the same time, individual households would be spared the average $11,500 in annual insurance premiums they are now paying for health insurance, an amount that is increasing by roughly 8 percent to 10 percent per year. [...]

    Given finite resources, rationing in one form or another is inherent in any health care system. However, regardless of its flaws, the Canadian system generally allocates care according to medical need, rather than patient socioeconomic status. Over 80 percent of Canadians receive elective surgery within three months, and there is no evidence that Canadians are wait-listed for emergency surgeries. We don’t see busloads of Canadians crossing the border into Michigan every day to get expedited MRIs, nor is there evidence of a mass immigration of Canadian physicians into the U.S.

    Also, polls have shown that Canadians are generally pleased with their system and an overwhelming majority of those asked would not want to replace it with American-style medicine.

    Finally, to those who think single payer would never work in the U.S., consider this: the most popular health insurance program in the U.S., based on patient surveys, is a single-payer, government-run, tax-financed, administratively lean, non-means-tested, universal access program. Perhaps you’ve heard of it: Medicare. With administrative expenses of only 3 percent of annual receipts (versus 18 percent or more for some for-profit HMOs), Medicare is economically efficient.

    When it was created 42 years ago, Medicare was castigated by the American Medical Association as a program of “socialized medicine” that would impede the doctor-patient relationship, destroy American health care and undermine democracy. Yet within a few years of its birth, it was a big hit with patients because it guaranteed access to hospital and medical services, while doctors (and hospitals) loved it because it guaranteed payment

  • Physicians for a National Health Program: We All Need Healthcare; Who Needs “Insurance”? By Georganne Chapin, JD, MPhil, President and CEO, Hudson Health Plan. Excerpts: I am a health insurance and managed care executive so you may find this editorial a bit strange. I believe that the way to fix our healthcare system is to stop relying on insurance and focus instead on healthcare. So, what’s wrong with health insurance? Well, first, it’s temporary. This may work for auto policies, but not for human health.

    Second, health insurance is mostly contingent on where you live and whom you work for. It’s easy to transfer car insurance, but not health insurance.

    Finally, insurance companies make more money by minimizing pay-outs than by keeping people healthy. Human beings — who need preventive care, who have babies, who may lack living wages and job security, and who get older—find the house rules stacked against them.

    Plans in Massachusetts, California, and soon New York propose to strew the same old red tape over even more people. Members of the same family could end up with separate policies, with different benefits and different expiration dates. This will make it even harder for doctors and hospitals to figure out whom to bill, which services are covered, and - worst of all - whether coverage will last long enough to complete treatment for a sick patient.

    Other developed nations have universal healthcare, not “insurance.” They give healthcare to everybody, they spend less, and they are healthier for it.

    But, we have an example of success in this country, too. It’s called Medicare. And while flawed, Medicare meets the most important criteria for a universal healthcare system: it’s permanent, it’s portable, and it’s simple and inexpensive to administer.

    The health insurance model is flawed because it depends on people falling between the cracks after they pay their premiums and before they collect their “benefits.” Rather than insurance, providing healthcare to everyone would cost less and deliver more in the long run.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site:
  • From the Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 08/18/07: Thanks to our friend who tipped us off on the book, "Leadership Moments: Turning Points That Changed Lives and Organizations" (www.trafford.com/06-1721). I purchased a used copy from amazon (UK). For those of us who gave our lives and souls to Big Blue, the chapter on IBM's layoffs tells it like it is and vividly captures their devastating effects to the human spirit. Although the author tries to provide a "balanced" view, we who have experienced downsizing, LEAN, etc. can read between the lines--there is no such thing as a balanced view when it comes to layoffs! However, it took courage for this IBM exec to speak up, and I was personally inspired. For those of you still with the company, get the book and follow his advice! -laidoff?-
    • Comment 08/19/07: Huge cuts planned for IGS-GTS/ITS. The new strategy of service product lines has clearly failed. Managers, particularly in the sales groups are now panicking and requesting detailed hourly reports, threatening sellers with performance layoffs, etc. The numbers for the executives will look good, because they have QUADRUPULED the delta between the director's quota and the line sales employee quota. 91% of sales challenges (over 7K of them) not met to date is a clear sign of this greed. They jack up the numbers so no one can make the numbers and they don't have to pay commissions. Deliver folks now walking off accounts. Teaming has become food fights for the few kernels of business of customers foolish enough to pay the high rates. Hear that certain parts of SWG and STG are especially in the hole so far that expenses may not be paid for some in a timely manner. Looking like things are getting pretty bad. -GTS Seller on the SS IBM Titanic-
    • Comment 08/20/07: As far as managers using Sametime to keep track of employees, I was told by my previous manager that I HAD to log on to SameTime even though I don't use it. I asked him why and he confessed that it's to keep track of when people arrive and leave. He said he was only doing what he was ordered to do and didn't like it either. He has since left the company. I quit logging into Sametime after he left and my current boss hasn't told me (yet) that I have to. Pretty funny stuff! -Cant believe I'm still here-
    • Comment 08/20/07: Management is basically telling workers at east fishkill do more work. Morale to them is a non issue. When we have project meetings they're all laughing like that dolphin, flipper. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/20/07: Managers are always prone to looking at the sametime logs to make sure you are at work. now we all know that this is not accurate, but IBM itself is in the stone age. Just beware, IBM does monitor sametime, all of its chats and all of the phone conferencing stuff the latest releases can do. It's best to keep your personal IM client loaded on your personal workstation, otherwise Big Blew can monitor your personal chats as well. -Sametime Watcher-
    • Comment 08/21/07: I for one stay logged onto Sametime 24/7 and work about 6.5 hours a day in the office, no one knows nothing. Besides, I could log on before coming to work, at night, etc. This employee Gestapo crap has to stop. Counting my days down. -ScrewedByIBMrtp-
    • Comment 08/21/07: SammySon, Yeah, I remember listening to that guy when I went through SRI in 1987. He had a strange last name, French, I think. He kept saying he couldn't be an IBM executive because he was too short and not good looking enough! He taught what was a seminar on connectivity-networking but wound up comparing the Kremlin to Armonk because CPD and NHD were so screwed up.

      He was a field sales guy, very close to customers and they loved his irreverence to the starchy Armonk types. I was sitting in the back and I remembered some ed center bigwigs quietly showed up to listen to him and speculate how long it would be before he got fired. I guess he proved them all wrong! He once said "I have no mentors, no protectors in IBM. There's no one I feel worthy of mentoring me in management." Boy was he right!. -Old Fart-

    • Comment 08/21/07: I am currently an IBM employee in East Fishkill NY and I am hearing that the next round of layoffs will occur at the end of October in which manufacturing is going to get hit hard. It is a very sad state of affairs at IBM these days. The morale is so bad that very few people really care about their jobs or the company anymore, and who can blame them.

      Upper management couldn't care less about any of us as long as they can continue to fill their pockets with more money. Sam Palmisano, you should be ashamed of yourself for allowing this to happen especially since you have spent your whole career at IBM. I thought that having someone like you running the company would be a good thing, but boy was I sadly mistaken. You are rotten to the core and far worse then those that came before you. For a company man to treat his employees like you have is truly and injustice and very disheartening.

      We need a new breed of management that is willing to look into each employees eyes and find the value that each has to bring to the company. We as employees were once your greatest asset and now all we are is a liability that is inhibiting your ability to make more profits. IBM used to stand for something in the business world and now it is just a joke. Big Blue is no longer the company that others would model themselves after; but rather a company that others should run away from.

      The corporate giants of the future will once again prove that treating your employees with respect will not only bring back loyalty but also record profits to those that are willing to fight for their employees who work hard and create those profits in the first place. So just remember, if you as corporate executives are willing to settle for mediocrity, then you should expect nothing less from those that you lead. The key in management is to lead by example and IBM has gotten so far away from that principle. IBM corporate execs are so far removed from reality and couldn't really care less, so why should we as employees care? Remember, "Lead by Example". -Anonymous-

  • From the General Visitor's Comment page:
    • Comment 08/21/07: You all sitting down? Just heard IBM is seriously considering changing the max severance pay for RA'ed employees to 3 months from 6. How's that for arrogance. Guess they need some way to make next quarters numbers. -somersDude-
    • Comment 08/22/07: I just got a message from my manager indicating that ALL travel has to be estimated and approved by a manager 3 levels about me. All training has been cut since last year in order to make the numbers look good. I see the writing on the wall - GET OUT BEFORE THEY LAY YOU OFF. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/23/07: Re this Quote (see below): Yes, I believe it, as appx 10 years ago, the max severance was around 40 weeks. I actually had a team disbanded around 1998, and my then manager sent us mail promising a 40 week severance. However, he later realized his mistake - the new policy was at most 26 weeks' pay. Now, looking back, even getting 26 weeks' severance would have *greatly* supplemented my income over the past 10 years!
    • Comment 08/24/07: To most of the folks that are on to this site but still will not join the Alliance: IBMers in China are now leaving, IBMers in India are leaving. Others across the globe ditto. They are going to the competition since IBM hasn't treated them well and pays them like %$#@. IBM is going to hell in a hand basket. And fast. As Armonk fiddles the company is burning. I guess you folks that read this site but fail to catch on and make excuses to not join the Alliance are relishing the ultimate demise of IBM. If you are afraid for your job, well, if you don't join you ought to be since you will be LEANed soon enough: ultimately more trimmed gristle, cartilage, or shaved bone from the blue pig (all the fat has long been cut or cooked as fatback!). -I(diots)_B(astards)_M-
  • Pension Comments page
    • Comment 08/23/07: USA IBM Folks: your pension is going to freeze dried come 12/31/07. IBM will keep the pension money of yours in their pension coffers until you leave or they can you. You will get no further increase to your pension other than maybe some piddly "interest credits" likely to be pathetic %. Do you understand this???? Don' think that on 1/1/2008 you can roll a freeze dried pension over to your 401k or anything. Want to change this? GET A CONTRACT and UNIONIZE NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -frozen_solid-
  • Raise and Salary Comments
    • Comment 08/14/07: Salary = $41,978; Band Level = 6; Job Title = Software Engineer; Years Service = 13; Hours/Week = 40-60; Div Name = IBM MD, Systems and Technology; Location = BTV; Message = I worked my way up from an operator Band 0 status when I started with IBM at age 20. Went to school, got a BS, finally got promoted to Band 6 after many years of hard work. I'm now making just over 40k / year as a Band 6. I get raises, but when I am this far away from the pay median I feel it will take a decade to get where I should be right now. My manager has told me that to increase my salary I need to get promoted again. In order to do that I need to get a Master's degree. I heard the same line 5 years ago when I was told to finish my BS and I only got a 4k raise for that. Meanwhile I see here that people who are a band 6 are making many thousands more than me. It's simply unfair, and not a single person in IBM management seems to care about this. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/21/07: Band Level = 2; Job Title = Operator; Years Service = 10; Hours/Week = 40; Location = EAST FISHKILL; Message = More layoffs I hear. Looks like more people are getting the shaft and the work responsibility is doubling here. There is no raise here at IBM. Everyone is looking for a new job. I hope this place crumbles and is infested with rats -Mr drop my pants-
    • Comment 08/21/07: Salary = RM30,000 a year (1USD = RM3.5); Band Level = 6; Job Title = Accounting Analyst; Years Service = 1.5; Hours/Week = 100+; Div Name = Asia Pacific Accounting Centre; Location = Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia; Message = Leonardo, I used to work in the Malaysian office of IBM, quit almost a year ago. From the limited time I spent there, I'm making an educated guess that the salary ranges are more or less the same, probably applies to every single country as well. Around the time I left, all new hires were given a PBC rating of 3, regardless of how well you performed. Needless to say, a lot of people left after 1-2 years there due to this really dumb policy. The salary raises for 2 and 2+ are also really pathetic, bordering on a joke, which are around the 2-3% mark, not even making the inflation rate. All this is due to the ex-GM of IBM Malaysia, Seng Chuan Voon, who squeezed every bit of life, initiative and strength out of every single employee, and refused to pay employees market rate salaries for their job roles. I hope he will suffer for his sins in some way. -Ex-IBMer-
    • Comment 08/22/07: A 3 appraisal after a promotion has been normal for years. The managers do it to cover the skew. A recently promoted employee isn't expected to do better than a 3 so he isn't in danger (usually) of being fired due to that rating. This allows the manager to give out the required 3 appraisals, make his skew, and protect that employee and the others in the department from having to take a 3 and possibly be fired for it. I used to be a manager, if one is smart and has a range of employees with different times in grade you can protect them for years and still cover the skew this way. It takes planning but some managers do care and are taking care of their people, even if they don't dare explain it to you. -Ironman-
  • PBC Comments
  • International Comments
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.

  • "A parallel" by "Dose of Reality". Full excerpt: It's a lot like the Soviet Union "trying" to transition to a market economy. The old guard only know how to build the five year plan, govern by fiat, cook the books, and put out lies in lieu of statistics in order to declare victory and collect the spoils. The proletariat wants to do the right think, but don't have the skills, or the support of their leaders.

    And the mafiosos in the middle can do nothing but try to protect their turf and advance according to the old rules, because that's the way the synapse has always worked in the economy.

    Is it any wonder that thug Putin is trying to reconstitute the old Soviet Empire?

    Maybe IBM's next step will be to try to recreate the machinery that produced the old 360? Of course, with the pervasive brain drain throughout this company, that dog won't hunt anymore, for products, let alone for consulting.

  • "Funny" by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: Back in the late 80's, there was a real wild duck that taught a class in the Systems Research Institute which basically compared Armonk to the Kremlin. They've tried to fire him at least 5 times and he's still there, having a ball as he gives more executives heartburn.

    As to the answer from the old guard about resurrecting the 360 it is a resounding yes. They have rescinded the decision to kill the old VM and CP on the mainframe, put a light "green Linux" coat on it and re-sell it as the "green data center" concept.

    Cringley may turn out to have been closer to the truth than we surmised after all. I hear of massive cuts coming now in SWG, STG, GBS and GTS. It's now a torrent leaving the pig, not just in traditional high turnover areas like consulting, but in product development, management, finance, support, etc.

    The blue pig may help put Lenny Kravitz "I Want to Fly Away" song back in the tech top ten!

  • "True" by "Frank_Reality". Full excerpt: Wish I had a set of his foils. And yes, more cuts are coming from all directions and in all orgs - except corporate staff.
  • "Resignation Time" by "itblues". After 10 years at IBM.. I have reached my fill of the current management.
    • I am tired of watching us fall from the top 100 companies to work for.
    • I am tired busting ass getting high PBC's and shit for raises
    • I cannot understand how we have a record year and reduce costs by crushing other IBMer's careers and not getting raises
    • I am tired of seeing other IBMer's RA'd while they have been great workers and high PBC performers
    • I don't understand how we can throw so much knowledge away on this company via RA's of good folks.
    • I am sick of every engagement now being measured by the volume of complaints versus customer sat. The less complaints you have on the account...the more the bean counters cut...when the client threatens to pull the contract...you have the right staffing numbers
    • I am tired of the 60 hours a week for 40 hours pay I hate Sam and company..

    Best wishes to all of the family of IBMer's out there. I hope that everyone takes heed of the actions of IBM'er.. polish the resume.. be prepared for the next round of cuts coming soon.

  • "Well Said" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: Congratulations on returning to the sane world from the commercial purgatory that the immoral blue pig represents. You should rest and re-build the career that insensitive management abused.

    The current regime is focused on maximization of past investments in the US, and looks overseas for the future.

    Unfortunately, the leadership has been effectively just opportunistic caretaker management and the brand has not been able to successfully cope with the inevitable commoditization of technology.

    It appears, sadly, that there are only two viable strategies for most IBMers. Everyone must take one of these 2 paths eventually, after they have personally exhausted themselves morally and physically. One is to seek opportunity elsewhere on your terms. The other is to sit on your ass and let them fire you. I cannot judge either strategy, for either one or both may make sense depending on the individual situation.

    A lot of those folks the young consultants complain about are either broken souls waiting to get canned or quietly and secretly building a new career while fighting a rearguard action with IBM management trying to keep financially viable until their new business succeeds.

    A friend of recently bought some used equipment and found out the owner of the company he dealt with was an active 2nd line manager!

    One of my old friends retired recently and HR and management demanded a celebration of his 33 years in IBM. He filed an injunction to force IBM to secretly let him leave. He felt sad as he left not because he left a company, but because so many of his colleagues who were good and deserved to reach retirement never got their chance. As he put it: "It was just pure dumb luck I made it as high as I did and as long as I did."

    As Rome fell, there were a lot of stories of how people coped with the collapse. I'm afraid we will see the same when the blue pig collapses.

  • "It's a sad fact" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: IBM is so political that people succeed mainly because of this. From band level 8 and up it's probable;ly most prevalent. The emphasis is on pleasing your immediate manager more than actually doing a good job for the client. When you know that your relationship with your boss counts for significantly more than what you do for the client you know IBM is a complete sham.
  • "Hydra's teeth baby" by "John the General". Full excerpt: You don't need to be in the cat bird's seat to put it to the Blue Pig. I work down in the bowels of my organization doing the proposal reviews and business case evaluations. IBM has not won one thing since I got here. The rep on my account is starving.

    Some one else used the phrase Hydra's teeth. In Austin the pig is struggling with a state contract to consolidate data centers. Funny thing the delivery team cannot get enough bodies on the deal to do the basic keep-the-lights-turned-on tasks, what we called Keep Alive at PECO. Maybe the thousands of layoffs there over the years has something to do with it?

  • "IBM Bands/Levels" by "chuckles55". Full excerpt: Hi, I'm debating between a couple offers across the ex-big 4 consulting firms. Can anyone help me out with understanding the bands at IBM? They have me pegged for a B8 - Managing Consultant position. Is this really a 'manager' role? Or more of a Senior Consultant role at a company like BearingPoint or Accenture? Any insight is greatly appreciated.
  • "Here's a few chuckles for you Chuckles Pt 1" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: Band <6: Will never see the inside of a client’s office, strictly back-office types.

    Band 6: Hey I just grajeated college, and my daddy told me IBM is a good company. He said they make these big boxes called computers, and every company uses them. The company is really big, so it must be a good place to work –right? Otherwise, how could they get so big? I interviewed with this old lady who was a lot like my Aunt Millie, and she told me IBM was a great place to work, but she couldn’t tell me why. That’s OK – my Aunt Millie never lied to me. I am having a great time here – putting numbers in a spreadsheet, typing notes, and making appointments for my manager. Next month, they are going to let me actually speak to a client. I have also been put in charge of a guy named Ravi who works from 9:00 PM – 6:00 AM. He is really hard to understand, but is always asking “How can I help you”. Unfortunately, he never does…..help me that is. I don’t think my manager likes him

    Band 7: I spent 6 years working as an accountant at Pepsi, but I left last month when they promoted Ravi’s mother to CEO. IBM really likes me – they are teaching me how to fill in all these menu screens in this program called SAP. I have no idea why I need to fill them in, or what they do, but my clients keep asking me. I just agree with everything they say, and everything works out OK. When I get stuck, I call Ravi, and he puts me on hold a few times, and then asks “is there anything else I can do for you today?”

    Band 8: I used to be an accountant, but then I worked on a project implementing SAP at my company. I got a call from IBM, and they said they wanted me to become a management consultant. That sounded impressive, so I said – “sure why not”? My daddy told me that IBM is a good company. I have since been working on projects copying all the SAP designs from my previous company and putting them into client companies. I asked my manager “how can we be sure that the designs are going to work here”. He told me that the client would accept everything we say and do, because we are IBM, and besides, we don’t have the time or budget to do anything but slam it in. I spend my whole day telling band 7 how to fill in SAP screens, and when I don’t know what to do, I call Ravi, and he puts me on hold a few times, and then asks “is there anything else I can do for you today?”

    Band 9: I really like telling people what to do, especially when I have no idea what they are doing or what it means. I spend my whole day checking off tasks that we have completed, and telling my team to complete them on time, or else. Of course, there is no “or else”, because their actual performance has nothing to do with their evaluation at the end of the year, and regardless of how they ARE evaluated, they all get the same paltry rise and bonus. When I get behind schedule, I call Ravi, and he gets 5 of his friends to get together and complete in two weeks what my band 8 could complete in two days.

    Band 10: I haven’t delivered a single work product in over 10 years. I used to work in the software group, but was kicked out because I was determined to have no people skills, and don’t have a clue about technology or software applications. My partner really likes me, because I do whatever he says to do, and whenever anything goes wrong, I find a band 9 to blame. My favorite thing to do is put Powerpoint pitches together – I have hundreds that I have collected and stolen over the years. Global-search-replace is the best thing invented since the system 360….or was it the PC?….no – I meant Lotus 123; I always get them confused. Whenever I need material, I call Ravi and he sends me documents from a course he took in college – “Making clients think you really want to and can help them, even though you don’t know wtf you are doing, and still think you are better them”.

  • "OK, since you asked nicely" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: Labels are great, but they can mean different things at different firms. Here's what the band levels actually do: The salary figures are around 2 years old.

    There are 5 core classifications before you get to partner level, band 6 – 10. Band 6 is actually the lowest rung on the client-facing consultant ladder, reserved for entry level consultants with limited prior corporate or consulting experience. Band 6 and Band 7 together comprise the conventional “consultant” classification. Work responsibilities range from project office/administration activities and documentation and/or configuration assistance up to the upper end of the scale perhaps leading or conducting client interviews, assisting with planning, doing basic design work and related documentation, and completing testing streams. Note I am grounding this discussion in a typical IT development model. Obviously straight business process work would use a different language, but hopefully you can make the translation in your head.

    Band 8 and Band 9 equate to “Senior consultant” or “Principal consultant” in the case of PwC. Band 8 would typically lead a major workstream, perhaps with a small client or consultant team to manage. Tactical planning, status reporting, test planning, configuration leadership for a module or application are here. These are the real workhorses of the pyramid – enough experience to lead, sometimes removed from the hands on documentation, and can occasionally serve as project manager on a small project. Band 9 is the core project manager class, with responsibility for day to day management of virtually all of the medium to large size projects. They may also take on some internal practice development roles, and also have primary responsibility for tactical management of sales proposals. Band 10s come in two flavors – business development and practice development, sometimes a swirl between the two. They are typically a partner’s “right-hand man”, or may span practice areas with a client list or industry focus. Above Band 10 is the partner level.

    Rough market equivalents for BCS bands:

    • Band 6 – Sanitation engineer trainee
    • Band 7 – Street level drug dealer (assuming they don’t get caught and can work an entire year)
    • Band 8 – Tenured, underworked, undermotivated, burned out public school teacher
    • Band 9 – Entry level pharmaceutical sales rep
    • Band 10 – Exotic dancer at Scores working 3 nights a week + moonlighting

    Oh, so you wanted actual figures - OK Salary levels and approximate breakdown of realistic ranges would be as follows:

    • Band 6: 54k - 78k
    • Band 7: 66k - 100k
    • Band 8: 88k - 125k
    • Band 9: 115k - 145k
    • Band 10: 135 - 185k

    There are outliers - the actual mandated ranges overlap somewhat more than this to accommodate them. Most staff are clustered below the midpoint, and new hires are consistently brought in at the 25th percentile or below.

  • "Day in the Life" by "ickyshuffle". Full excerpt: This is for all the people that want to be a consultant. This is your average life for a band 6-8,
    • Wake up at 3am on Monday. You are happy you didn’t have to fly out on Sunday
    • Arrive at client site at 9am
    • At noon, discover that the solution will not work for client
    • Lie (and type some document)
    • Find out document is wrong or not required Lie (and type something else) repeat and continue until:
    • Leave at 6pm on Thursday
    • Get home at 1am on Friday
    • Wake up for 8am conference call client set up
    • Look at Porn during call and for next 9 hours until your PM signs off of instant messaging.
    • Weekend

    Am I wrong?

  • "Accurate" by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: You forgot: At end of week collect the same paycheck as your friend who works 45 hours a week in industry.
  • "Also Forgot" by "pork". Full excerpt: While working at client site you are trapped in a room with no windows with 4 other consultants sharing 1 LAN line and 1 phone line.
  • "one more thing" by "wuteva". Full excerpt: When you type up the documents, the client doesn't understand them, so you have to make power point slides to "visualize" the concept for the client. Then, they spend more time criticizing your artistic work than actually commenting on the content of the slides. "why is this line connected to that box, lets make it connect to the triangle and make it a hyphened line instead of solid..oh, and make it blue because blue is the color of my daughter's eye". Idiots.
If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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