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Highlights—September 1, 2007

  • New York Times: At I.B.M., a Vacation Anytime, or Maybe None. Excerpts: It’s every worker’s dream: take as much vacation time as you want, on short notice, and don’t worry about your boss calling you on it. Cut out early, make it a long weekend, string two weeks together — as you like. No need to call in sick on a Friday so you can disappear for a fishing trip. Just go; nobody’s keeping track.

    That is essentially what goes on at I.B.M., one of the cornerstones of corporate America, where each of the 355,000 workers is entitled to three or more weeks of vacation. The company does not keep track of who takes how much time or when, does not dole out choice vacation times by seniority and does not let people carry days off from year to year. [...]

    But the flip side of flexibility, at least at I.B.M., is peer pressure. Mr. Hanny and other I.B.M. employees, including his assistant, Shari Chiara, say that they frequently check their e-mail and voice mail messages while on vacation. Bosses sometimes ask subordinates to cancel days off to meet deadlines.

    Some workplace experts say such continued blurring of the boundaries between work and play can overtax employees and lead to health problems, particularly at companies where there is an expectation that everyone is always on call. [...]

    Frances Schneider, who retired from an I.B.M. sales division last year, after 34 years, said one thing never changed; there was not one year in which she took all her allotted time off.

    “It wasn’t seven days a week, but people ended up putting in longer hours because of all the flexibility, without really thinking about it,” Ms. Schneider said. “Although you had this wonderful freedom to take days when you want, you really couldn’t. I.B.M. tends to be a group of workaholics.”

  • New York Times: Reader Comments: Vacation Time. If the link to the comments is broken, view Adobe Acrobat version. (Editor's note: In less than 24 hours, until the Times shut off further submissions, 219 comments about the IBM vacation article were posted. Many readers took exception to the Times' characterization of IBM's vacation policy, claiming the article did not represent their experience. Other contributions, from both the United States and around the world, discussed the uniquely American culture of work, including our reluctance to take vacation and our guilt when we do so. Most of the posts are highly articulate, informative, and interesting to read.) Some selected comments follow:
    • #7: As a well connected professional in the high tech world, with ties to IBM and numerous other large companies, I have a fairly accurate sense of what hours people are working and how hard. At least within the software side of the business, I see very few people working as hard or putting in as many hours as IBM employees. Six or seven days a week, with long hours and extensive additional time at home appears to be fairly common, especially for people with some level of responsibility.

      It’s true that “flex time” is encouraged, but that usually means much more work, not less, as the employee often ends up working long hours deep into the night, multiple days per week, and over the weekend as well. Then there is taking the laptop on vacation…. As things are now, it appears that companies that encourage their employees to work from home are getting the better end of the bargain by far. Certainly that appears to be the case for many folks I know at IBM. There is nothing directly wrong with this, but let’s not pretend that the employer is doing the employee any favors! — Posted by Owen

    • #10: So many people I know at IBM do not take all their vacation time, especially in the US. In most cases they lose the time altogether, as they can’t roll time over from year to year. There’s just so much work to do and not enough people or time to do it. It seems to be “all work, all the time.” — Posted by Deb
    • #15: I don’t see what IBM has to be so proud of here. As someone who has worked there, I can tell you that they run in overdrive all the time. IBM employees (especially in the US) work their butts off!! Furthermore, their US employees get *much* less time off compared to their overseas counterparts, and a lot of those US employees are hard pressed to squeeze in time off. This is not limited to IBM only. Dell is even more of a pressure cooker in some ways.

      The comment above about the database tracking tool is true. In some ways it makes for much tighter control of vacation time. A computer will do a far better job of tracking (and enforcing) vacation time than a human every time. I don’t know where the author got the impression that IBM doesn’t track vacation time; nothing could be further from the truth! Also consider that with a never ending crush of work, it’s almost impossible for anyone to get away for more than a few days. Your work is still waiting for you when you get back, along with all the work you missed. In lean, hyper environments, there’s nobody to pick your work up while you were gone. The employee pays the price for their few precious days off with double or triple the work to do when they get back. Some way to rest and rejuvenate! — Posted by Bob

    • #17: We have succumbed to a culture of fear. From fear of loosing your job to someone who will take less vacation time to fear of terrorism. We need to take back our life and enjoy it. Last time I checked, we only get one. — Posted by Mags
    • #30: I found this article interesting but I rarely was allowed to take much vacation when I worked at IBM. It was one of the most difficult places to take any time off. — Posted by justaworker
    • #44: I find it amusing the article uses an executive as an example of the great flexibility available to IBM employees. Anyone who works at IBM knows the rules are completely different when you reach the executive pay grades in IBM.

      Try asking one of the business consultants who are scrambling for their next project, a hardware engineer who knows their job is going to China, or a software engineer who knows their job is going to India how much vacation they took last year.

      I worked 70+ hours a week on a project for 6 months. My reward at the end? a week of extra vacation. Do you think I had time to take it?

      My experience is that they don’t track vacation, instead they load you up with so much work, you can’t afford to take your allotment. — Posted by never use it all

    • #48: I have been living in Spain for the past 10 years and love the vacation time we have here. Everyone has roughly a month of vacation time. In my case I have 23 weekdays a year, that I can use whenever I want, which means you can take a Thursday and Friday off that will only count as 2 days and really get 4! I do that all the time and take a long 3 week vacation in the summer to travel. I’ve been able to travel all around Europe, besides going back to the US often, while my friends back in the US only go to the Caribbean for about a week a year and are unable to travel more which is what Americans are lacking - travel which opens minds and teaches you about different cultures and ways of living and proves that there really are places where people live just as well if not better than in the US where it’s all work and no play. — Posted by Beatriz
    • #53: IBM focuses on improving an invented product and maintaining that product. Vacation? I guess that depends on the niche you carve out for yourself. Do you like abusing people? There will always be a lot more work than anyone can possibly do, management’s goal is to make sure everyone can be replaced by someone cheaper. Creating an abusive work environment facilitates this goal. — Posted by sw
    • #61: I agree with several comments that the article is misleading re taking vacations at IBM. Data on vacations taken is being tracked via a database. Also, there is a lot of pressure not to take all your allotted days. There are people, and not just a few, who register some days as vacations taken, when, in fact, they come in to work. (This, of course, does not refer to those who work from home, but who have a company provided office/factory job). — Posted by IBM retiree
    • #76: Am I the only one who thinks part of the problem is that Americans are routinely lied to in their media. We all think that having fewer vacations days means we have a better standard of living. We also all think that IBM has some new looser, more worker-friendly vacation program — which they do not.

      Is no one else bothered by the fact that two posters have said the main idea of the Times article is simply false?

      “I don’t know where the author got the impression that IBM doesn’t track vacation time; nothing could be further from the truth!”

      Wake up, sheeple! Everything you know is wrong! — Posted by Jim Pharo

    • #77: The old days at IBM are long gone. It’s become a harsh, brutal place to work. Never have I seen so many people work so hard for so long, without let-up. It’s the poster child of modern American capitalism: no matter how hard you work, it’s never enough, because you didn’t grow strong double digit growth in a stagnant market.

      At least work laws and culture in Europe has partially maintained the benefits for the workers that make it all possible. In the US, we work with the myths of pride, creativity, and some type of uber-fulfillment from work well done. Terms often heard at IBM today include such Orwellian phrases as “failed to execute” (when the organization failed to reach an impossibly high revenue, corporate, or work goal), or, “we just posted our best quarter in history, and revenue is up over xx% year to year! Unfortunately, we still didn’t make our numbers!” This is straight out of “Dilbert,” but increasingly common today.

      Europe still has unions, or at least the vestige of the idea that the employee should share in a few of the benefits of the constantly rising productivity. In the US, we are constantly told that it’s a privilege to work for the big company, and that we are lucky to work for one of the greatest companies in the world, in the greatest country in the world.

      The US is number one in myth only. When the modern, educated US worker wakes up to the fact that they are far, far behind most of the rest of the “modern world” in benefits, work/life balance, health care, etc. - then maybe something will change. Until then, all the IBMers I know will continue to go around overworked, under-rewarded, and scared for their jobs - all the while with a big, happy forced smile permanently glued to their face, lest someone think they are not the consummate team player.

      High Tech in the US is the 21st century equivalent of the 19th century sweat shop, and IBM is the perfect model of the new reality. The final indignity is to constantly work in global virtual teams with people from all over the world, where you see your team peers getting vast amounts of time off, while you are lucky to get your five or six US holidays a year, and few weeks of vacation after many years in the work force. — Posted by Loyal IBM Employee

    • #82: Where was the research done for this article? IBM certainly DOES track vacation, in fact tracks it meticulously. We don’t have to “ask permission” to take time off but we are discouraged from using it and have to constantly keep mgmt updated on what our vacation plans are. Tom (post #2) was right on the money with how things are REALLY done at IBM. — Posted by Fact Checker
    • #91: You're right in how the work environment has changed in the many years I’ve been at IBM. I have had 1 vacation in 10 years without my ibm tools (pager, laptop). With global teams comes the extension of the US workday no longer is 9-5 enough. Your waking up for a 6:30am meeting, lunchtime meetings and finishing off with a 9:30 pm call to China.

      I see so many bright people just burning out and were just asked for more. There are a few good mgmt out there but most are in the some boat as us. No backups so when you’re gone so your work piles up which makes people not want to take vacation.

      We can take off whenever our schedule allows but in the term billable hours drives us to how much we have to work in a year. You are then compared to the rest of the team so if you work 10 to 12% OT per week you still can be the lowest number of hours in the Dept.

      We have people in my group that have averaged 40% OT since the begriming of the year. These are salaried people so only IBM gets the $$ not the employee. I’m just hanging in hoping someday it will change. — Posted by another IBM'r

    • #98: Talk about getting it dead wrong. There might be parts of IBM with the wonderful vacation environment being described…but…in the service divisions, which is the largest segment of IBM, employees have to track every minute of every hour of every day. Since their time is billed to customers, only under very unique circumstances are employees allowed to take more vacation than they are allocated. — Posted by A current IBMer
    • #106: If Americans want decent vacations, then they better start supporting trade unions again, like people in other advanced countries do. Even if you are not a trade union member, only the unions have the bargaining power to achieve real progress in this area.

      Unfortunately, most people have become hypnotized by the “unions are always bad” mantra of the mainstream media, which are sponsored by the big corporations.

      At least the “socialized medicine is always bad” myth seems to be falling, and we can only hope that the fall of the other reactionary myths will not be far behind. — Posted by Tom

    • #109: This article is a joke! IBM really spun a good tale here, and on the front page of the New York Times no less!. Unfortunately, the day to day reality at “Big Blue” is vastly different. It’s constant crushing work loads and lots of repressed fear. I have used my laptop on almost every vacation I’ve ever taken at IBM, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t done the same thing.

      I can’t tell you how many people I have seen take their vacations just to take essential IBM (online) training that their job roles did not allow time for, or to catch up on critical project work that they don’t have time for during the day, since they are busy doing the work of what used to be 3-4 people.. It’s hard to complain that you are overworked and frequently working past midnight from home, especially when your boss and many of your peers are doing the exact same thing. Who do you complain to then?

      It’s also very common to be in a meeting or on a conference call with someone and find out that they are on vacation, (maybe even have been all week) yet they have been in the office or on-line and engaged almost as much as you have. Most amazing of all is when the person on vacation doesn’t even blink about still working.

      I’ve even heard someone on vacation say something like, “don’t worry, it’s OK. I’ll take some time off this afternoon and go to my kid’s ball game.” The ability to use a few hours of their own vacation day for themselves seemed like a benefit or reward to them. This is when you know you are not in Kansas anymore. I’d like to see someone from the NYT write a front page article about this IBM, as this is the only IBM I know. — Posted by IBMer

    • #110: I just left IBM because I got tired of everyone pretending to not need vacation and to not go on vacation. I had 14 days, and I did not take them completely, just as said above. I took my laptop on vacation, and got urgent work requests during that time.

      I found the attitude toward people’s personal regeneration and private time in my place to be unhealthy. Which is why I decided to leave. I don’t want to have a heart attack by the time I am 40. — Posted by Anna

    • #115: I am amazed that more people on this thread are not angrier - I would be furious if I lived in a country where my government did not guarantee me a minimum amount of vacation time, paid sick leave, proper maternity leave and a modicum of job security and protection from unfair dismissal… I live in Ireland - we have a booming economy and I have 27 days vacation a year plus public holidays and I have six months paid maternity leave with an option of a further 4 months unpaid. It’s incredible to me why normal americans aren’t willing to fight harder against the stranglehold corporations have over all aspects of their working lives including a powerful lobby against any but the most basic employment rights. — Posted by Cathy
    • #123: Well educated white collar professionals in places like IBM traditionally used to diss unions as something only for lower class blue collar or less educated people. Wake up people!! This is the myth of middle class America.

      White collar workers today are often now working under more stress and the same unfair conditions than the blue collar conditions that brought about unions decades ago. A standard work week of 60-70+ hours a week, plus more time from home needs some larger force to roll it back.

      There’s a lot of corporate money and lobbying going into convincing you that unions are un-American. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s union efforts that largely built the great middle class prosperity of the US, which is fast eroding today.

      As an exIBMer, I can tell you that almost everyone I know in IBM is desperate for a union, or some type of relief from the insanity that passes as normal working conditions. Even with heroic effort 365 days a year, it’s almost impossible to get anything beyond an average review, as then they have to pay you more money. I was one of the lucky few who got above average reviews, and I still didn’t get any raises, in spite of IBM’s insistence that it “pays for performance.”

      I really did hear things like, “the work is it’s own reward” more than you might think. IBM has long forgotten that people work to live, not live to work. A few “brown bag lunch” sessions about work/life balance, and IBM has itself well convinced that it’s at the top of the heap - it’s very deluded; they simply don’t get it. — Posted by Former IBM

    • #132: Vacation time is very healthy for the worker. Look at all the health problems of the American culture. Paul Krugman stated in a recent article that the lower third of British (hardly the healthiest culture) are healthier than the upper third of Americans!

      My son is 23 years old and just started a job in Europe and is given 5 weeks vacation. Wake up America, you have been sold a bill of goods. — Posted by carmen

    • #135: I thought IBM propaganda was only published on our internal intranet w3.ibm.com site, so surprised I was to see it outside on NYTimes.com. Vacation at IBM not tracked, you gotta be kidding me, we are so overworked I WISH I could take the vacation time I am allocated. And when you do take vacation, your manager can cancel it anytime by just stating “Needs of the Business”, whatever that means. — Posted by current IBM employee
    • #143: Work, like politics, is also local. I’m a current IBM employee, and I take all of my vacation and don’t feel a shred of guilt. Most years I get a few extra days as a reward from my manager. Also, I don’t have to use any database to track it. The reason my experience is so much better than others is because of my manager. He totally buys into the life/work balance thing. I’m not in the services side of IBM, so I don’t have to track every hour, so it is easier. The funny thing is the engineers I often work with at other companies work many more hours than I do, so I’m real happy about my situation. — Posted by Also Current IBMer
    • #145: Flex time is incredibly “valuable” to IBM employees simply because it’s the only way you can possibly get anything in your personal life to fit into the frenetic workflow of everyday IBM; it’s not some joyous benefit that makes people stay; it’s more like an essential that makes vast amounts of overwork possible.

      I don’t know who researched this article, but they got IBM all wrong. IBM loves flex time, especially on the Software side of the house, as it allows them to put impossible work commitments on employees, who often have to work until the wee hours of the morning to barely keep up. At least on the Software side (SWIG) the conditions can best be described as “Death March” more often than not.

      It’s amazing that IBM is boasting of its flexible working conditions, especially when those conditions allow for the greatest possible overwork of its employees. It’s no benefit to me that I get to take a bit of time in the morning to take my kid to the dentist if I end up working to 2 AM the next two mornings.

      I’m reminded of the movie Animal House, and the line, “thank you sir, may I have another?!” Working at the office, or working at home in my living room, the impact is the same. It’s not time spent for me and my family…. — Posted by IBM SWG Guy

    • #149: At IBM, in situations where your hours are billable to a client, you have a utilization of 96% to meet which means you cannot take your allocated 3 weeks of vacation + 12 holidays without making up for it by working overtime without pay. So, it looks good on paper but in reality, you have to make up for any time off - including sick leave. Managers do check an employees utilization weekly and routinely ask people to postpone their vacation to the fourth quarter. — Posted by IBM Employee
    • #156: I started on a project expected to span at least a year, and the first thing my manager said to me is that during this time I am not permitted to take vacation time and I will need to show proof for sick days. Is this even legal?? — Posted by VM
    • #157: Congratulations NY Times on a great piece of fiction. If I hadn’t just left IBM, I would have believed it! The smiling kids and relaxed looking dad are a nice touch. Too bad they don’t show your manager calling you out of bed at midnight on a Friday (yes, it does happen) or all the employees who spend at least an hour per day of the little vacation they get answering emails.

      The joke around IBM was, Saturdays are the best day of the week because that means you can work in your PJs. Seriously, I’d expect better research from the NY Times. No one at IBM (except in someone working PR) would find any grain of truth to this. I’ll read NY Times articles in the future with a lot more skepticism. — Posted by Been Blue

    • #165: Special news bulletin! This just in: IBM hires the New York Times as its new PR department. Details at 11….!

      IBM stands for “I’ve Been Misled” as anyone who has ever worked for IBM will tell you this article is an incredible feat of fiction. I can’t believe the NYT fell for this fantasy! I’m proud to be an IBM employee, but even for me, this is absolutely ridiculous. I’d write more, but I have to go back to my work in my 60+ hour a week job as a “flexible” IBM employee. Thanks for the good laugh. — Posted by Tom@IBM

    • #172: Sure, no one keeps track of your vacation days, but what is not mentioned is that your time off actually counts against your overall utilization numbers. So, as long as you bill for 94% of the year, you are not given a hard time about your vacation time, but every day you take off counts against you for billing. This article is very poorly researched and misleading. — Posted by Matt
    • #180: I never felt guilty about taking a vacation when I was at IBM. I always had to work during vacation - it was like work at home, only from a different home.

      I worked for 3 years at IBM (in Global services) after an outsource from another large company.

      Let me assure you that post 2 (Tom) is correct. There is a Lotus Notes interface called “Vacation Planner” that you put your vacation totals in. I was a first line manager (initially with 20 direct reports) and all of my team was required to put their totals in the tool. I put my totals in the tool and ’shared’ them with my manager. And yes, they were tracked. It may have been a contract requirement on our account as part of the outsourcing agreement.

      When my combined service with my previous employer and IBM reached 20 years, I received a 5th week of vacation. Newer outsourcing deals cap vacation at 4 weeks max, generally. You also get some personal days mixed in with some floating holidays, on our ‘deal’ it was 3 Floating, 2 personal days so I had about 6 weeks total.

      There was no way you could ever just go on vacation and do no IBM work as a manager. I remember being in the Outer Banks (NC) when a layoff notification came through. There I was out on the back deck, searching for a open wireless network so I could download the correct forms so I could notify (via cell phone) my employees who were being terminated. I would have preferred to do it “face-to-face” but I was not afforded that luxury. That was not a lot of fun.

      So there I was calling folks and terminating them while my family and friends were at the beach.

      Generally I considered it a good day if I worked ‘only’ 3-4 hours a day on vacation, as my normal day was 10-12 hours.

      Regarding the ‘flexibility’ of working at home, the article shows Luis H. Rodriguez frolicking with his children near his ThinkPad. When I worked at home, the corporate instant messaging software “Sametime” was ALWAYS up and my bosses had Sametime up and running on their BlackBerry devices. I remember getting a message at 9pm one night (I was working) and my boss was off to a dinner party and needed a wine recommendation. He ‘pinged’ me because he knew I was always “online’ and working.

      I agree with the quote “I.B.M. tends to be a group of workaholics.” I worked with a remarkable bunch of people, who did some really great work.

      I left voluntarily to work at a small IT firm because the 80-90 hour work weeks were more than I could stand. — Posted by Former Big Bluer

    • #190: For most IBMers, the scenario described in this article must seem like a fantasy. Although IBM gave up having U.S. employees record vacation time on time cards almost 15 years ago, the amount you of vacation you take never stopped being tracked. These days, it is tracked by most employees and their managers using a Lotus Notes database.

      For years and years, IBM has been requiring more and more work of its employees. They’ve called this “raising the bar” and each year the executives tell us that we need to “give 110%” of what we did last year to reach our new goals. It doesn’t take long for that 110% to compound itself and for employees to be doing the work that used to be done by two employees. To enforce this, each year IBM cuts back the employees working on projects and those who remain are required to pick up the slack while they worry about whether they will be the next target of a layoff.

      It’s not uncommon to find IBMers who have to work 60 hours a week or more to get their work done. There have been many cases in IBM’s development organizations where employees have been required to work 6 days a week, 10 hours a day for periods of three to six months in order to keep a project on track. To go on vacation or miss even one day in the 6-day week would guarantee a poor appraisal, and perhaps even being fired.

      The net result is that it is often difficult for IBM employees to take even 3 weeks of vacation a year.

      Several studies have shown that not taking at least 2 weeks of continuous vacation to allow one to totally disconnect from work can have adverse health effects. Yet, the IBM environment prevents many employees from being able to do just that. A nurse I know who works at a local hospital in the cardiac care unit says they get more patients from IBM than any other employer (and IBM is not the largest employer in the area). Many of them are far too young to be having heart attacks. She put it simply - stress kills.

      The unending workload in IBM, the stress of the job and having to keep up with the work, even while on vacation, creates an unhealthy work environment. — Posted by K

    • #193: As a former IBM employee and a current IBM contractor, I can definitely state this NY Times article is absolute fiction. I currently contract in IBM’s service delivery organization and IBM regular employees and contractors have to account for every hour of every day.

      IBM regular, exempt employees in service delivery are expected to work a minimum of 15% unpaid overtime each week and every recorded minute is billable to the external customer. In addition to the 15% weekly overtime, IBM regular employees are ‘encouraged’ to work unpaid overtime to make up time that is not billable to a customer and that time includes sick days, vacation and any time spent in training. The company expects a minimum of 2100 billable hours per regular service delivery employee per year; so much for EARNED vacation benefits!

      On the flip side, IBM does provide its contractors with involuntary, unpaid vacation time. Whenever the company needs to ‘adjust’ the quarterly bottom line, the contractors are forced to take time off without pay. For the third quarter 2007, service delivery contractors are being furloughed for 80 hours each; I can just hear those executive achievement incentives being deposited now. — Posted by Contracting

    • #199: The “real” IBM that I experienced as a consultant at the Boulder, Colorado site was not nearly as nice as what is described in this article.

      We worked long hours with lots of pressure and little time off. While in theory you get paid for all the hours worked, the reality is that if you wanted to keep your job you did not report all the hours you worked. Also,in my time there I was lucky to get off a week a year.

      IBM lets you work from home but you are consequently then always working and never away from it. Telecommuting sounds great but the reality is much more of a mixed bag, especially for consultants.

      IBM and other such companies are extracting every ounce of work they can get out of consultants with no concern for the individual. It is a very tough and unforgiving business.

      And yet we need the work, the alternative of no work or low paying work is much worse. So the message is suck it up and learn to live with it. — Posted by Tom L

  • The Register (United Kingdom): Xerox job losses on the cards after all. We'll save your jobs..oh no we won't. By Ciara O'Brien. Excerpts: Xerox employees who were due to move to IBM after the firm outsourced their jobs have been dealt a blow, with news that IBM plans to make them redundant.

    The outsourcing was part of a review of Xerox's operations that had been carried out by the document firm in a bid to control costs. Under the original plan, Xerox was to outsource the jobs to IBM, without a single staff member losing their job or even being forced to move premises.

    However, according to reports on Wednesday, the 900 jobs are now on the line with IBM planning to outsource the positions to a cheaper central European economy. Workers will be made redundant over the next two years, with IBM carrying out the cuts in two stages, each resulting in 450 job losses.

  • BusinessWeek: IBM: Star of India. From inking deals to hiring top workers, Big Blue is beating its tech services rivals. Excerpt: Just a few years ago, IBM looked stodgy compared with agile Indian tech players such as Infosys, Wipro, and Tata Consultancy Services. But today, Big Blue has become the leader in the Indian tech services industry, with 10% of the domestic market. Its Indian workforce has more than doubled in two years, to 53,000—about 15% of its worldwide total—and Bangalore and New Delhi are now home to IBM's largest research and development labs outside of the U.S. [...]

    Indeed, the company is so well entrenched in the subcontinent that in 2006, Chief Executive Samuel J. Palmisano was voted "IT leader of the year" by Nasscom, India's software industry association. And local heavyweights view IBM as a formidable competitor, as it has signed up a roster of blue-chip clients such as real estate developer DLF, state-run Canara Bank, and the Indian tax department. "IBM has really understood what India is all about," says Nasscom President Kiran Karnik.

    At the same time, the company has worked hard to integrate India into its worldwide operations. That has allowed IBM to eliminate 20,000 jobs in high-cost markets such as the U.S., Europe, and Japan. The success of this strategy was confirmed this summer when IBM reported second-quarter revenues were up 9%, to $23.8 billion—powered in part by a 10% increase at its IT services group, which suffered mightily at the hands of its Indian rivals in the early part of this decade.

  • Forbes: IBM Senior VP Exercises Options. Excerpts: A senior vice president of International Business Machines Corp. exercised options for 45,000 shares of common stock, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. In a Form 4 filed with the SEC Tuesday, Douglas Elix reported he exercised the options on Monday for $51.16 apiece, then sold all 45,000 shares on the same day for $112.82 to $113.20 apiece. (Editor's note: Mr Elix's one-day "income" from this sale was in excess of $2,774,700.
  • New York TImes: Is There (Middle Class) Life After Maytag? By Louis Uchitelle. Excerpts: THE last of the Maytag factories that lifted so many people into the middle class here will close on Oct. 26. Guy Winchell and his wife, Lisa, will lose their jobs that day. Their combined income of $43 an hour will disappear and, soon after, so will their health insurance. Most of the pensions they would have received will also be gone. [...]

    Nor is it difficult to recruit workers in Newton anymore. Absent Maytag, a good wage in central Iowa is $12 or $13 an hour. The trick is to get that much as well as health insurance — and if not the wage, then at least the health insurance, even if that means commuting 40 to 50 miles, as more than a few ex-Maytag workers are now doing.

    The downshift is reflected in the Labor Department’s national data. Median family income has risen at an average annual rate of only six-tenths of a percent, adjusted for inflation, since the mid-1970s — in sharp contrast to the 2.8 percent growth rate in the preceding 26 years.

  • The Register (United Kingdom): IBM faces Second Life strike. By Martin Banks. Excerpts: Ever wanted to go on strike, be part of that feeling of solidarity on the picket line, but felt too cowardly to take the risk? September should see just the opportunity for you.

    That is when Rappresentanza Sindacale Unitaria IBM Vimercate (RSU), the official trade union representing IBM's 9,000 workers in Italy, is planning a most novel form of industrial action – a strike on Second Life – and it wants as many avatars as possible manning the picket lines. [...]

    A statement sent to The Register by the RSU sets out the reasons for the industrial action as follows:

    It seems that the reasons for this first virtual strike are related to the renew of the internal agreement. While IBM is one of the company with major profits, its employees are receiving very few fruits of this big mountain of money.

    The internal climate is below all the IT industries (taking advantages for the famous IBM's competitor: HP), and the drop that overflowed the glass is the long and inconclusive negotiation for the internal agreement. While the works council, supported by the majority of IBM Italy employees, was asking for a small salary increase, IBM responded with the complete suppression of the "productive results benefit", with a loss for a single employee of €1000 per year. For a company that wants to lead the corporate social responsibility, this is really too much.

  • Workforce Management: Review of Retiree Health Care Bias Ruling Denied. Excerpts: The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to review a ruling upholding the ability of employers to reduce health benefits to retirees when they become eligible for Medicare, bringing a long-running legal battle near an end.

    On an 11-1 vote Tuesday, August 21, the 3rd Circuit denied a request by AARP for the full appeals court to review a unanimous decision by a three-judge 3rd Circuit panel. In that June ruling, the panel said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the authority to implement a rule that would exempt from the Age Discrimination in Employment Act health plan changes for retired workers when they become eligible for Medicare.

  • New York Times: A Sobering Census Report: Americans’ Meager Income Gains. Excerpts: The economic party is winding down and most working Americans never even got near the punch bowl.

    The Census Bureau reported yesterday that median household income rose 0.7 percent last year — its second annual increase in a row — to $48,201. The share of households living in poverty fell to 12.3 percent from 12.6 percent in 2005. This seems like welcome news, but a deeper look at the belated improvement in these numbers — more than five years after the end of the last recession — underscores how the gains from economic growth have failed to benefit most of the population.

    The median household income last year was still about $1,000 less than in 2000, before the onset of the last recession. In 2006, 36.5 million Americans were living in poverty — 5 million more than six years before, when the poverty rate fell to 11.3 percent. [...]

    Over all, the new data on incomes and poverty mesh consistently with the pattern of the last five years, in which the spoils of the nation’s economic growth have flowed almost exclusively to the wealthy and the extremely wealthy, leaving little for everybody else.

    Standard measures of inequality did not increase last year, according to the new census data. But over a longer period, the trend becomes crystal clear: the only group for which earnings in 2006 exceeded those of 2000 were the households in the top five percent of the earnings distribution. For everybody else, they were lower.

  • New York Times: A Sobering Census Report: Bleak Findings on Health Insurance. Excerpts: The Census Bureau’s report on the state of American health insurance was as disturbing as its statistics on poverty and income. The bureau reported a large increase in the number of Americans who lack health insurance, data that ought to send an unmistakable message to Washington: vigorous action is needed to reverse this alarming and intractable trend.

    The number of uninsured Americans has been rising inexorably over the past six years as soaring health care costs have driven up premiums, employers have scaled back or eliminated health benefits and hard-pressed families have found themselves unable to purchase insurance at a reasonable price. Last year, the number of uninsured Americans increased by a daunting 2.2 million, from 44.8 million in 2005 to 47.0 million in 2006. That scotched any hope that the faltering economic recovery would help alleviate the problem.

    The main reason for the upsurge in uninsured Americans is that employment-based coverage continued to deteriorate. Indeed, the number of full-time workers without health insurance rose from 20.8 million in 2005 to 22.0 million in 2006, presumably because either the employers or the workers or both found it too costly.

  • Reuters: CEO pay and benefits on the rise. By Joanne Morrison. Excerpts: Top executives at major businesses last year made as much money in one day of work on the job as the average worker made over the entire year, according to a report. [...]

    At the same time, workers at the bottom rung of the U.S. economy received the first federal minimum wage increase in a decade. But the new wage of $5.85 an hour, after being adjusted for inflation, stands 7 percent below where the minimum wage stood a decade ago.

    On average, CEOs at major American corporations saw $1.3 million in pension gains last year. By contrast, 58.5 percent of American households led by a 45- to 54-year old even had a retirement account in 2004, the most recent year these figures were available. [...]

    The top 386 CEOs in the study took in perks, such as housing allowances and travel benefits, worth on average $438,342 in 2006. It would take a minimum wage worker 36 years to earn the equivalent of what CEOs averaged in just perks alone. [...]

    American executives significantly out-earn their European counterparts, the study found. In 2006, the 20 highest-paid European managers made an average of $12.5 million, a third as much as the 20 highest-paid U.S. executives took home last year.

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • Boston Globe, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program: Kucinich is right on healthcare. By Derrick Z. Jackson, Excerpts: In a CNN poll this spring, 64 percent of respondents said the government should “provide a national insurance program for all Americans, even if this would require higher taxes,” and 73 percent approve of higher taxes to insure children under 18. Those results track New York Times and Gallup polls last year, in which about two-thirds of respondents said it is the federal government’s responsibility to guarantee health coverage to all Americans.

    Such polls allow Kucinich to joke that, far from being in the loony left, “I’m in the center. Everyone else is to the right of me.” More seriously, in a recent visit to the Globe, he accused the other Democratic candidates of faking it on healthcare reform.

    “One of the greatest hoaxes of this campaign — everyone’s for universal healthcare,” Kucinich said. “It’s like a mantra. But when you get into the details, you find out that all the other candidates are talking about maintaining the existing for-profit system.”

    Kucinich quoted the 2003 study published by the New England Journal of Medicine that found that 31 percent of healthcare expenditures pay not for actual care but for administrative costs. That compares with only 16.7 percent in Canada. Administrative and clerical employees make up 27 percent of the healthcare workforce in the United States, compared with 19 percent in Canada.

    “With 46 million Americans without any health insurance at all and another 50 million underinsured,” Kucinich said, “isn’t it really time to look at the other models that exist that are workable for all the other industrialized nations in the world? When you think about it, the only thing that’s stopping us is the hold that the private insurers have on our political system . . . corporate profits, stock options, executive salaries, advertising, marketing, the cost of paperwork. . .”

    The hold of the healthcare industry on the top candidates is already apparent. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top recipient of campaign contributions so far from the pharmaceutical and health products industry is Republican Mitt Romney ($228,260). But the next two are Democrats Barack Obama ($161,124) and Hillary Clinton ($146,000). The top recipient of contributions from health professionals is Clinton ($990,611). Romney is second at $806,837, and Obama third at $748,637.

  • The Charleston Gazette, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program: 'Profit equation': Health-care plan should not be financially motivated. By Terry Gossard. Excerpts: The pursuit of profit has always been the principal motivating driver that sustains the American economy. Few would argue this because it strives to provide an economic lifestyle essential to America’s work force, small businesses and large corporations and the overall viability of local, state and federal government. However, the delivery of basic health care to all Americans should be removed from the “profit equation” at least as we relate it to the corporate bottom line.

    Implementing a single-payer (universal) health-care system for all Americans is long overdue. It is a basic right of citizenship. Any attempt to hasten the dialogue in this regard has invoked the instant wrath of the universal health-care naysayers. Over the years, we have stood idly by and allowed the status quo barriers to become much more formidable than need be. The time is now to attack the real and imaginary barriers with fresh innovative thought as to how best achieve a viable single-payer system. [...]

    Opposition forces have thus far relied on rhetorical “scare tactics” to protect the status quo. The primary risk to the opposition would be any action taken that may result in a reduction of profit. For many of us who have experienced the denial of medical service or medication, or the unreasonable delay in providing timely medical decisions, or at the very least, health-care coverage that is less than satisfactory, do you really believe that our well-being is of paramount concern to those overseeing the full spectrum of insured services? How many of us (having any form of paid medical coverage today) can honestly say that we’re confident that our insurance company or third-party provider has our health-care interest at heart? Premiums, co-payments and deductibles continue to increase each year yet we must still fight for our medical needs. Unfortunately for many, waging these battles becomes far too exhausting or they’re simply not equipped to challenge the status quo.

    Health-care decisions must be made solely by health-care professionals, pure and simple. Each and every insurance company and third party provider has a phalanx of front-line clerical personnel programmed with a checklist of “reasons” why your claim is to be denied or that the surgery ordered by your doctor is unnecessary or that medication “A” prescribed by your doctor is not right for you and that you should be using medication “B.” The fox has been in charge of the henhouse far too long.

  • Denver Post: Experts pan health savings accounts. Policy group says savings vehicles are too risky for low-income families. By Steve Raabe. Excerpts: Health savings accounts, touted as a way to lower health-insurance costs and broaden coverage, have fallen short of their promise, according to a report released Wednesday. The Denver-based Bell Policy Center said the tax-sheltered insurance savings accounts are good for high-income workers but too risky for low-income families. [...]

    "While HSA plans have grown rapidly in the last few years, they have missed their mark," Woodbury said in the report, "attracting enrollees with high incomes who are more likely than low-income people to already have coverage. "Furthermore, the plans do not appear to be making system-wide changes toward lowering costs, as some proponents expected."

    HSAs have "limited usefulness, primarily for high-income taxpayers," said Ed Kahn, special counsel for the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, an advocacy group for low-income people. But the high co-pays and high deductibles associated with HSAs discourage low- and moderate-income people from seeking needed health care, he said. "It's like tossing a defective life preserver to somebody who is already drowning," Kahn said.

  • New York Times: A Socialist Plot. By Paul Krugman. Suppose, for a moment, that the Heritage Foundation were to put out a press release attacking the liberal view that even children whose parents could afford to send them to private school should be entitled to free government-run education.

    They’d have a point: many American families with middle-class incomes do send their kids to school at public expense, so taxpayers without school-age children subsidize families that do. And the effect is to displace the private sector: if public schools weren’t available, many families would pay for private schools instead.

    So let’s end this un-American system and make education what it should be — a matter of individual responsibility and private enterprise. Oh, and we shouldn’t have any government mandates that force children to get educated, either. As a Republican presidential candidate might say, the future of America’s education system lies in free-market solutions, not socialist models.

    O.K., in case you’re wondering, I haven’t lost my mind, I’m drawing an analogy. The real Heritage press release, titled “The Middle-Class Welfare Kid Next Door,” is an attack on proposals to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Such an expansion, says Heritage, will “displace private insurance with government-sponsored health care coverage.” And Rudy Giuliani’s call for “free-market solutions, not socialist models” was about health care, not education.

  • Tallahassee Democrat, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program: We can't afford to not have national health care. By Kenneth Brummel-Smith. Excerpts: Michael Moore’s recent documentary, “Sicko,” has increased the heat on the discussion of health care. It’s high time Americans and their representatives took a hard look. If we did a physical on our health care system, we’d have to say it is not doing too well. And the prognosis is grim.

    The United States has some of the poorest measures of health in the world, and often we are among the worst. Among developed countries, we trail those with national health systems in almost every way health care is measured.

    Compared to European countries we have the highest infant mortality. The average in the U.S. is worst than the infant-death rate among the poorest of Canada. Mothers don’t do well here, either - we have a maternal death rate that is between two and three times that of the Europeans. At the other end of the age spectrum, we have the shortest life expectancy when compared to all European countries, Australia and Japan.

    And even for those lucky enough to have insurance, 28 percent report having difficulty getting needed care. Of course, we know they all have to wait in long lines to get care in those European countries, right?

    Wrong - the percent of people in the other countries report having to wait at much lower rates than we do - only about 15 percent report difficulty getting care.

    But we all know they control health care spending in those countries by rationing health care, right? Wrong again! Take a look at high cost procedures and compare how we do:

    • Bone marrow transplants - we’re just average, Australia, France and Italy have higher rates;
    • Hospital stays - everyone is higher than us (anybody in your family forced out of the hospital because insurance isn’t going to pay for more days?);
    • Denmark, Italy and Japan have more MRI units per capita than we do;
    • Everyone of the European countries, Canada and Australia have more nurses per patient than we do;
    • And the mentally ill get more services in the other countries than citizens of the U.S. get here.

    The fact that really angers us is that in spite of these woeful statistics, we end up paying more than anybody else in the world for health care. Health care costs per person are as much as double other developed countries. The average cost of health care in America is more than $7,000 per year. Most European countries spend $3,000 to $4,000 per year. In fact, the portion of annual cost of health care in America that is paid by public funds (Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans, government employees) is more than half of our costs and exceeds most other countries total expense.

    Where does all this money go?

    Profit. To those who say we can’t let the “government run health care” and we should let the market solve our problem: “Wake up. The market is the problem.” For-profit health care has been shown in numerous studies to be excessively costly, prone to abuse and fraud, and poorer quality. For-profit HMO patients get fewer preventive services. For-profit HMO patients with stroke get less rehabilitation and end up in nursing homes more than fee-for-service patients. For-profit hospitals have a 2 percent higher death rate and yet cost 19 percent more. For-profit hospitals hire fewer nurses and having fewer nurses has been shown to lead to poorer outcomes. The fee-for-service environment promotes the use of unnecessary treatments and surgeries. As many as one-third of all hospital admissions are preventable and one-fifth of many surgeries are unnecessary.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site:
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  • Ireland: Vodafone agrees to union demands on outsourcing to IBM. Full excerpt: The CWU has reached agreement with Vodafone and IBM which provides for the limited outsourcing of application development and maintenance activities from Vodafone to IBM. Under the agreement employees transferring to IBM will receive the equivalent value of terms and conditions which include guarantees on pay, pensions and security of employment. IBM agreed to engage in constructive dialogue with the CWU on issues which might arise post the transfer of employees.
  • From the Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 08/23/07: Sore Sphincter: The current RA pkg was 1 week per 6 months service up to 26 weeks. IBM has a different pkg for the 'managed-out' employees of 1 week per year. Now they are thinking of changing the RA-package to be the same as the 'managed-out' pkg -miss understanding-
    • Comment 08/27/07: I worked at the birth place of IBM, Endicott, NY. IBM sold us out to some local businessmen and EIT. Two weeks after the sale was final, EIT canned 200 people, 10% of the former IBM panel plant work force! Worked out nice for IBM, nearly 2000 people cheated out of full pensions and medical coverage. PLUS when sold to EIT or let go by EIT, guess what the IBM severance was? If you guess ZERO you are right. IBM has all sorts of tricks to cheat workers without contracts! What will IBM use to cheat you and your family? Contacts would help keep the IBM HR and executive crooks at bay! -No IBM Severance tricks-
    • Comment 08/27/07: EFK not making their numbers. Yields are poor and management sees no end in sight. Burlington fab currently bailing out EFK. Management mentally beating up EFK employees. Expect another round of layoffs this fall. Layoff number in the 100's. -EFK Whistleblower-
    • Comment 08/29/07: Here's my advice for the sequence that I encountered. (RA with retirement):
      • Call the Employees Service Center (ESC) asap. They will assign you a benefits coordinator. That's the person you work with for your pension and medical choices. This can take a while to make contact so you need to get this started as soon as you can.
      • The estimator tool is very close but not precise. The ESC needs to schedule an official calculation of retirement benefits. (My official one was $1 more than the estimator.)
      • They send you a package with your pension choice (you told the coordinator). Sign and return asap too.
      • It can take a month or more to get your pension started so make sure you have cash in the meantime. It is retroactive to your effective date though.
      • Be aware. Retirement is effective at the end of the month BUT you will get the first paycheck of that month and your manager has your last paycheck (maybe separation check too) in their desk. You are off the payroll system after that first check. Make your 401K deduction choice far enough ahead to be in that last check.
      • There is a lot of "jiggling" with your name on lists. Off this list...on that list. It takes time to settle.
      • Make every Dr. appointment before you are off the system. Order all Rx drugs too. See that dermatologist you always wanted. Do it while you are still on the active list
      • Medical: a) I chose TMP/COBRA. This continues my current plan choices. Otherwise, I would have had to sign up for all new plans under the retiree choices. See netbenefits to see the retiree choices. b) Dental and vision are automatically switched to the retiree plan. TMP/COBRA is available for medical only. c) They bill me for it until the pension starts where they would take it out automatically. d) Current bill (May + June) = $508 (PPO+, Self +1)
      • Get organized: a) keep notes on all conversations with the ESC: dates, times, who you talked to, what was said... b) get a file for home to keep all the stuff in - you will get a lot c) The web site has a checklist for separation/retirement. Print it - follow it d) print any other docs you can find
      • GUL - Maybe you signed up for a lot of extra insurance so your family would have money if you died and didn't get a pension. Now is the time to reduce that - you got the pension.
      • I recommend the 100% spouse replacement option for your pension. Discuss it with your spouse. Discuss it all with your spouse. This is a big deal and they need to be involved.
      • I called Vanguard to set up a rollover IRA of my 401K. I got the accounts,etc ready to accept the money. a) As long as you are 59 1/2 (or better), you can transfer into an IRA anytime b) Do you like Financial Engines (off the 401K website)? Don't transfer all the money at once. You lose the link. c) In fact, you can do it in stages. The plan limits you to 4 withdraws a year. d) I used Vanguard and got Financial Engines through them instead of IBM.
      • I transferred my 401K to a Vanguard IRA. Go on the 401K website and follow the prompts to do a rollover. Make sure it's a ROLLOVER! As you fill out the steps in the request, you will get to a point where they say "The check will be sent to your address on record". Important !!! -> there is a link to fill in the address of a financial institution. Do that! You should have already spoken with the company. Then you see how the check is to be written. ==> The Vanguard Group, F/B/O "your name". (F/B/O = For Benefit Of) You do NOT want the check to be made out to you directly !!! This is so very important !!! They sent the check by ordinary mail. All I did was send it on to Vanguard. This whole process can take a week or more.
      • Medical, dental,etc is not automatically taken from your retirement check. You need to fill in the forms to make that happen. More time passes...you will get a bill in the mail for those things until the auto-deduction kicks in.
      • FYI - hopefully not soon a) your pension and your wife's part of it come from different accounts. If you die, your wife needs to contact the ESC asap so her part can start. Meanwhile, a check or 2 of yours has come but you are not around anymore. That money has to be returned to IBM. (Only an accountant could love this system...)
      • Got any old stock options? They time out soon after you leave (90 days). Check the web site. 18) Getting a retirement gift? Went online and didn't see anything you liked or the one you liked was discontinued? You have a year to claim it. Check every couple of weeks. The selection changes. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/29/07: Folks are resigning from IBM left and right. Since May (the beginning of lean), our group has lost over 20 experienced / middleware talent. Folks are trying to get out as quickly as possible. Lots of folks see the writing on the wall. -middleware-LEANer-
  • From the General Visitor's Comment page:
    • Comment 08/25/07: It's been obvious for a long time that IBM is headed down. You must understand that the executives are cashing out and could not care less about the long term viability of a computer company. Did you see that Nardelli (Home Depot) is going to Chrysler after receiving his 200M+ severance? The privileged elite don't care. Building supplies, automobiles, cookies, or computers are just vehicles to sack a great company, loot the pension, and leave employees empty handed. Wake up and realize that unless we collectively require better benefits and treatment, we are not going to get it. -Gadfly-
    • Comment 08/27/07: Hard to feel the need to work more than the 40 hour minimum. I've topped out and there's no promotion on the horizon -- had to make a sideways move to totally new job and now I'm a "newbie" again. Got a 2.5% raise as an expert in my old job with a 2+. I think I already know what I'll be getting next year. -WhoMe-
    • Comment 08/29/07: This is an e-mail that was sent by an GTS Delivery Manager recently to his Practitioners: "Quick question - they are asking if any work you've done this year - 1/1/07 to 07/31/07, at a customer location could have been done remotely? Please respond to me ASAP, and let me know if any engagements you've been on that could have been done remotely. And if they could have been done remotely, could they have been done by a global resource (off-shore). If you were working on a project that you needed to go to the customer site, but then could have done 75% of the work remotely let me know that too. At least send a note and acknowledge yes or no, Thanks" IBM has committed to eliminate and move off-shore most of US jobs. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/29/07: Could the work have been done remotely? Almost all of the work I did in the ten years before retiring (2006) could have been remote! I could easily have done the work from a beachfront lanai in Hawaii. What kept us traveling was client preference. When IBM gets around to making a hard dollar pitch on the economies of remote service, my (erstwhile) team is sunk. -Frequent Flyer-
    • Comment 08/30/07: To all USA workers including IBMers: Remember who got you your long, Labor Day weekend that is coming up. It wasn't any company or corporations and wasn't actually the government; it was the USA labor movement and labor unions! Without the labor movement and unions, we would all be at work on Monday, just like any other week. I for one can sincerely enjoy MY LABOR DAY since I am union and a member of the Alliance@IBM CWA and proud of it! -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/31/07: IBM East Fishkill 300mm line evacuated at 2008.08.30 5pm due to toxic gas escape. Cause of leak unknown as of 9pm, no one was allowed back in the building to retrieve personal items. After the alarm went off there were no announcement, some folks thought it was a drill and did not leave immediately, 40 minutes after the alarm, people were still walking out of the building. When fire drills are done, people in the fab meet in the change room, they are not allowed to go outside and ruin there clean room garment, so, during a real fire alarm, they have no idea what exit to take or where to go. -Anonymous-
  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments
    • Comment 08/26/07: Salary = 55k; Band Level = 8; Job Title = 1st Line Manager; Years Service = 8; Hours/Week = 70+; Div Name = ISC/Cust Fulfillment; Location = RTP; Message = Consistent 1 and 2+ performer. ; Think 55k is way too low for the responsibility and # of hours worked. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 08/27/07: Salary = 80K; Band Level = 8; Job Title = Project Manager; Years Service = 9; Hours/Week = 60; Div Name = 07; Location = East Coast; Message = The ibm we use to love is gone.. SP and team are milking what's left of the reputation. -RA's IBMer-
    • Comment 08/27/07: To Anonymous band 8 Mgr. RTP. Gosh, are you getting screwed. I'm a band 7 non-manager in RTP and make about 55% more then you while working less then 40 hours a week. Hate this friggin place. Counting my days. Sammy, catch me if you can.-rtpEngineer-
  • PBC Comments
  • International Comments
Vault Message Board Posts:
Minimize

Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC.

  • "Resignation Time" by "itblues". Full excerpt: 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.

  • "Wisdom from Pain" by "ancientblueconsultant". Excerpts: You have spoken wise words. Unfortunately it sometimes takes a lot of pain to acquire the wisdom and perspective you've got now. Don't be sad. Those you leave behind are either blissfully unaware of the wisdom you have acquired and can never be helped or blinded by the ersatz greed IBM management. The ones who know are busy building their own life rafts as they bail themselves.

    I urge you to support the people but damage the brand as you go forward in what will be a singularly successful career from now on. Don't forget who screwed you. Not your colleagues, but the brand and the inept leadership in Armonk.

    The plan appears to be to suck everything out of any sales, development and manufacturing based in the US. They appear to be getting ready to move everything overseas, except for a few sales and marketing functions. I'll bet that by 2010 we'll see that Cringley was right, that there's less than 30K US based full time employees. Yes, they'll be tons of contractors, H1B's etc., but very few full time employees.

    The company had 2 choices: go up the value curve or espouse the commoditization by going down hill. The old saying: "You cut your throat? Watch me cut mine deeper!" applies here.

    Good luck. I'm sure you won't need it but I offer it to an anonymous fellow colleague because it's the right thing to do. Moral leadership. A quality that IBM management has conveniently disposed of in the trash bin of history, but like a dead rattler may come to bite them.

  • 'Rot is Prevalent in the form of "me"' by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: If cutting the head of the snake would kill the regime and fix the company, then removing SP would be the answer, but that won't fix it.

    Gerstner destroyed the soul of the company and created the "new" IBM employee. The new employee doesn't think about what's good for the client or for the company, but what's good for him/her.

    It's isn't your father's IBM. In the old IBM, there was discipline based on respect and trust. Once the employees lost their respect and trust of management, it became more a "what's in it for me" environment.

    There is no hope except for what Sam has in plan. Squeeze the blood out of the stone and leave eviscerated IBM Americas, ready for sale and move the company overseas.

  • "Right" by "Frank_Reality". Full excerpt: ABC - as usual you nailed it. The power base within IBM is now full of "little Gerstners" - greedy, arrogant self-serving tyrants that don't give a damn about customers, that care even less than employees and that screw over the stockholders. All that matters to them is retaining and expanding their power and maximizing the amount they can weasel away from the company.

    The only way to get IBM to reform and serve its stakeholders is massive regime change such as taking out the top 4 to 5 layers of executives - and the board of directors too. Replace Sam with a no-nonsense outsider who is committed to reform and who has the guts to fire any remaining managers that don't get with the reform agenda That's what it would take to purge IBM of the "little Gerstners".

    Of course this could never happen - the execs the the board of directors are too entrenched.

    IBM is near dead - the rickety carcass hasn't yet fallen over, the vultures are circling awaiting the final movement. The odor of extreme sickness permeates the company. Every day the culture inside gets weaker and weaker. Good people leaving the company in droves.

    It is soon to stagger and fall to its knees, unable to eat or drink, then to lay down and die. Soon, the carcass will stink - that dreadful stench of the dead that is beyond description. Soon the vultures and maggots will pick apart the carcass, leaving just the bones, bleached white by the hot sun.

    And that will be Sam and Lou's legacy - a pile of bleached bones of a once proud and vital company. Bones, only bones.

  • "Sam is another Ackers" by "bluedngone". Full excerpt: Although Gerstner was aggressive, I think he was much better than Sam. Sam is another Ackers, totally inbred blue. At least in the Gerstner days, the business was growing and anything that showed promise was invested in. Sam just is trying to increase the companies value by cutting costs. I'm gone from the Big Blew now - and happy. Two months after being RA'd I am actually smiling again and enjoying life. IBM is ready to crash because all the life and creativity has been sucked out by Sam and the other 27 layers of idiot managers. They cannot recruit the best and brightest.
  • "I was shocked by IBM" by "civilliberty". Full excerpt: No company is perfect. But I was distressed over how I and other employees would get treated. I was use to always putting something back into a company (which is how I approached my time in PWCC)when I felt it gave something back to me - a real partnership where both employer and employee appreciated each other. IBM was the first company I worked for that turned this altruism completely on it's head. I had never worked for a company that bald faced lied to employee's about their pay, career and education prospects before (amazingly I did get once course out of them) . We had one remuneration episode where HR unwittingly supplied the band ranges. Needless to say more than one employee found out he/she was being lied to about where they fitted in the band.
  • "Seasoning Required" by "bluedngone". Full excerpt: The Indian's may be smart and well educated. What is really missing is experience that comes from blood, sweat and face time. What is commonly called perspective. There is no way you can really understand your customer when you have cultural language issues, you live 8000 miles away and never had to be stuck in a computer room with someone for 48 hours.

    My experience was that all the brilliance in the world is useless when you don't understand production work. It takes about 10 years to really get to understand that taking the time to get it right - the first time - is cheaper than hiring some inexperienced college hire who makes lots of mistakes and cannot communicate. Add cultural and language problems only makes it worse.

    It's the same reason you hire an old fat lawyer who knows his stuff and has seen it before over a new green graduate when you really are putting your reputation, life and money on the table.

  • "Welch" by "Dose of reality". Excerpts: GE's approach to outsourcing is to push out only the menial tasks that can be segmented from the real brain work. There is a hard dividing line between GE employees and "contractors". They also have had various degrees of ownership in the "preferred vendor" outsourcing firms, which offers both control, and requires that the firms can compete in the marketplace on their own. This helps the outsourcing firms maintain an edge, unlike our direct offshore hires which just get managed through the socialist soup of an evaluation process that we have.

    GE maintains their pipeline of top tier in-country recruits with the FMP and IMLP management training programs. This class has upward mobility, along with the handful of mid-career experienced hires they bring in to round out the skills needed. The offshore resources are just that – second class citizens that do the drone work.

    This divide ensures that the management development pipeline is filled with top tier talent which is needed for success, and the drones just do the menial work and then move on or die, just like drones are supposed to do.

    At IBM we just bottom feed to fill the whole roster, and wonder why we can’t develop the middle tiers of the hierarchy with capable talent.

  • "Auditors and 'Process Constipated'" by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: Do a video of all the auditors creating all these processes that mean nothing to the client except delay or complicate projects. Then shine the light on the execs heaping praises on these auditors and all their minions (pricing, legal, HR, C&NN, QA, etc.) that make their jobs secure and our customers mad. I just heard a new funny term from a friend in GTS... "We are PROCESS CONSTIPATED!"
  • "Happy to be out" by "bluedngone". Full excerpt: knew my job was being sent overseas a year ago and the mgt in my dept was getting really unreasonable. The morale started to suck long before the layoffs happened and I started to get ready. I was so tired I literally asked to be RA'd. Given the number of years I had with the company, I wasn't got to quit without getting a extended paid vacation. My feeling is those who choose to stay deserve what they get. If you choose to stay for the package like I did, that is it's own reward. I however would never recommend Big Blew as a place to work. The people I saw coming in were usually lesser quality and certainly not the creative types who are highly sought after in hi-tech. Mostly what they hire are the middle of the road students out of business school MIS programs. Myself, I am a hardcore software engineer who lived the life. IBM recruited me years ago to work for them because of my reputation and skills. If it wasn't for a marriage and family obligations and the 2000 to 2006 tech depression. I would have dumped the pig long ago.
Modern-Day Robber Baron Corner:
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Today's highly compensated executives face many difficulties, including figuring out how they can possibly spend all of the rich rewards they've earned on the backs of ordinary workers. Take a look at the insider trading of many of our IBM executives—spending the cash from all that stock "acquired at $0 per share" must be a real challenge! Or, imagine the difficulty IBM CEO Sam Palmisano will face spending his $10,000 to $20,000 a day pension when he retires!

As a way of helping out our beleaguered, modern-day robber barons this site will periodically feature "spending opportunities" that the "upper crust" of our society may want to take advantage of!

  • Wall Street Journal: 'Underpriced' at $100 Million Five houses are vying to be the most expensive ever sold, market slump notwithstanding. Ben Casselman and Christina S.N. Lewis handicap the race. Excerpt: It might seem foolish given the recent news from Wall Street, but a group of homeowners is holding firm on an ambitious goal -- to break the record for the most expensive home sale in American history. The price to beat is $103 million.
  • BusinessWeek: Way Too Good for Facebook or MySpace? For the rich and well-connected who don't want to rub elbows with those who aren't, exclusive social networks pledge to keep out the riff-raff. By Catherine Holahan. Excerpts: Roger Allen Conner Jr. has little use for the common folk who frequent MySpace and Facebook—you know, the clubs anyone can join. "A lot of social-networking sites are very low-quality," says Conner, the 22-year-old founder of a North Carolina consulting firm named SiloIQ. "The type of individuals that are on these social-networking sites are generally not well-networked themselves."

    Not even a business-oriented network like LinkedIn will do. To put it bluntly, Conner wants powerful friends: the kind of people who board private jets after cutting business deals. People who don't get stopped by the bouncer at New York's Bungalow 8 nightclub. People with connections who can open doors and get his company noticed. People with log-ins to aSmallWorld.

  • Forbes: Luxury Car Rentals For Business Travelers. (Editor's note: In reality, top-tier IBM executives would never rent or drive a car themselves...that's what corporate-paid chauffeurs are for. However, this article may be of interest for middle-tier executives at Big Blue). Excerpts: Your business trip itinerary is tightly packed--red-eye flight, a two-day stay jammed with meetings and an early morning return. You'll definitely need a car to get around town. A stroll through the average rental lot, however, chock full of mid-size sedans and mini-vans, might be enough to make you want to call a cab.

    But who says your trip has to be all work and no play?

    Today, luxury rental car outfitters can set you up with a vehicle right from the airport. Many of the big-name companies, like Hertz, Budget and Dollar, have Prestige or Style Series collections featuring BMWs, Mercedes and Hummers. And for those with bigger budgets, some specialty companies will put you behind the wheels of vehicles you've only dreamed of driving.

    What's driving interest in these rentals is a desire by top executives to maintain the comforts of home on the road. If you regularly drive an Infiniti, you're probably not going to be happy renting an "econobox," says Joe Brancatelli, founder of the business-travel Web site Joe Sent Me. There's also an aspirational aspect to consider: If you drive a Ford at home, this may be your only chance to get the feel of a Ferrari.

  • Forbes: Most Expensive Cars To Drive. By Jim Henry. Excerpts: Good news, Porsche lovers: Though a 911 GT3 will set you back $107,500, its estimated five-year operating costs are just $19,396.
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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