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6, 2000 April, 2000

Highlights—November 3, 2007

  • Huliq.com: IBM Agrees to Resolve Claims of Rosenburg, et al. v. IBM. Excerpts: IBM announced today that it has agreed to resolve all claims in Rosenburg, et al. v. IBM, Case No. C-06-0430, an overtime pay class action lawsuit filed in federal district court in the Northern District of California in January 2006.

    This case focused on certain current and former IBM employees within IBM's Technical Services Professional and Information Technology Specialist job categories, alleging, among other things, that those employees were classified as exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act and certain state laws, and that they should have been classified as non-exempt and paid overtime compensation. Under the terms of the settlement, still subject to final approval by the Court, each qualified individual in these two job categories will be entitled to apply for a payment, in accordance with an agreed formula, in full and complete settlement of all claims in the case.

    Litigation of this case would have been lengthy, burdensome and expensive, and IBM chose to resolve it, without admitting any wrongdoing or liability, for a total of $65 million. IBM had established a provision for the probable settlement of this case in the third quarter of this year.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post: "2008 Transitional Medical Plan Costs" by "Bill Hew". Full excerpt: I just got the 2008 TMP benefits package. I retired in Jan of this year. The costs for the same medical benefits now that i am retired appear to be "double" what I paid as an active employee. I called the employee service center to see if this was correct and they said they can't see the rates till the open enrollment starts on 10/31. What a nice "thank you" for being a retiree
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post: "Re: 2008 Transitional Medical Plan Costs" by "keep_ur_promises". Full excerpt: Pretty cool, huh? Yep, your medical insurance rates are now based on the entire pool of retired IBMers... separate from the pool of active employees. As you could guess, the overall medical expenses for retirees (being on average much older than active employees) are higher on a per capita basis, thus your rates are higher now... welcome to the group. Yeah, double sounds about right.... Wouldn't it be nice if all IBMers (both retired and active) were in the same benefits pool?
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post: "Re: 2008 Transitional Medical Plan Costs" by "Rita". Full excerpt: This happened to us when my husband left IBM a second time 3 years ago. One day we had great benefits at a decent cost, the next day we were "retirees" and the benefits were not the same and cost more. I took a package in 1993 so fortunately got to keep a benefits package. Then it was free and now it costs a bundle for 3 of us. Better than nothing I guess but not much at times...
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post: "Re: 2008 Transitional Medical Plan Costs" by "Ed Hayden". Full excerpt: Just wait until you get the retroactive bill for use of IBM's facilities and equipment over your years of employment. Regards, Ed Hayden
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post: "Re: 2008 Transitional Medical Plan Costs" by "fstephens". Full excerpt: You are now put into the HIGH RISK group, called RETIREES, instead of being in the LOW RISK group, with more members, called active workers. So, much HIGHER RATES. *** This is your reward for decades of hard work; the COLAs will help (that is if you buy a COCA COLA or PEPSI COLA, to mix with some alcoholic beverages; as those are the only COLAs you will get as a RETIREE!)
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post: "Re: 2008 Transitional Medical Plan Costs" by "madinpok". Full excerpt: Active employees are not paying the same. IBM used to say that they aimed to have active employees pay about 20% of the cost of medical benefits. In recent years, they have been shifting the costs around to make it cost more to cover your spouse and dependents vs just the employee.

    Under the TMP, you are getting COBRA coverage which by law allows the employer to charge 102% of the active employee rate. If you were laid off from IBM, IBM usually pays 100% for the first six months of coverage and then you pay the rest for the next 12 months. After 18 months, you can switch to retiree or FHA coverage if you are eligible. Otherwise, you are on your own.

    In the Hudson Valley, the 2007 rates are as follows:

    • Active Employee, Self+1, IBM MVP PPO: $87/month
    • COBRA/TMP, Self+1, IBM MVP PPO: $642/month
    • FHA Retiree, Self+1, Low Deductible MVP PPO: $1273/month

    Retiree coverage costs more because IBM has chosen to group retirees into their own, separate insurance pool. According to a recent Towers Perrin study, employees 50 to 65 years old use 1.4 to 2.2 times as much health care as younger employees in their thirties and forties. With no young, healthy employees to share the cost, the insurance has to cost twice as much.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post: "Re: 2008 Transitional Medical Plan Costs" by "ignatz713". Full excerpt: ONE thousand TWO hundred and seventy three dollars. A month. One THOUSAND two hundred and seventy three dollars? A month. Let's see, at those rates, the FHA should last.................... Amazing.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board post: "Re: 2008 Transitional Medical Plan Costs" by "ranheimchas". Full excerpt: I have the IBM Medical/Prescription Drug Supp Plus plan. In 2008, this plan will go up by $121.00 per month, or about 37%. When I add up my total costs for medical insurance, including the Medicare Part B for my wife and I, it comes to about $8,500 a year. This is what I have to pay out of pocket without ever seeing a doctor.

    When you add the Medicare deductibles, the IBM deductibles ($1,500), the Out of Pocket Maximums ($7,000)to that, you can see how easy my out of pocket costs will probably average $1,200 a month. This is quite a change from the free paid up medical IBM said I would get as part of my "Deferred Compensation" for the many years I worked for them.

    I stopped taking the less expensive IBM Plan after I had cancer, because of the cap on prescription drugs. If my wife or I should have cancer again that requires expensive drugs for treatment, my out of pocket would certainly go over $100,000. Basically, IBM has forced many retirees to make the choice between paying a super high premium for insurance, or take the chance of losing everything they own from high drug costs. Either way, their standard of living goes in the tank.

    It seems like a win-win situation for IBM. Our high premiums probably cover most of our medical care, and if we die early because medical care gets too expensive, IBM no longer has to pay our pension either. IBM could easily help us at no cost to them, by putting the retirees back in the same pool as the active workers, who have a much larger income and can afford these heavy medical costs.

    Perhaps I am just old fashioned, but I still think about the old "Respect for the Individual" that was one of the three basic beliefs we were all proud of. I guess we just have to accept the fact that the new people in top management do not agree with what we were led to believe in the past. I am not angry over this, just hurt to think about the whole situation.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board post: "Re: 2008 healthcare" by "keep_ur_promises". Excerpts: So, since I planned my financial future, and things have worked out ok so far, am I happy about the takeaways that IBM did to me? NO, NO, NO!!!! Thanks to the 1995 pension changes, my pension from IBM is about 30% less than it should have been and I am not one bit happy about it!! Just because I don't *NEED* that 30% does NOT mean I am happy about not getting it!!!! and I sincerely believe that is the way many other people feel.

    Most folks are not complaining about having chunks of their pension ripped off from them, or being screwed out of promised levels of medical care simply because they did not *plan* properly... no, they are pissed because, no matter how well you planned for something, they do not like being lied to or taken advantage of.

    If a someone comes up to you and threatens you with a gun demanding you give them $5 or they will shoot you... you are not going to be happy about it. It's not that the loss of $5 is going to change your day one way or the other... it's that you just do not like being robbed!!! Well, it's the same thing here for many of us.

    Another thing, If these pension and medical benefit take backs were really, really necessary, I think that most retirees (as well as active employees) would have rolled up their sleeves and willingly bite the bullet without complaint... but the truth of the matter is that it appears a large chunk of the changes were implemented for no other reason than to line the pockets of many of our Sr. execs.

    Gerstner walked away with what, $600,000,000.00 or so? How much medical insurance could that have paid for? How many BILLIONS (yes, BILLIONS when you add it all up) in (excessive) executive compensation was paid for off the backs of employees (through reduced retirement and medical benefits?

    "Super Cynics"? Just because thousands of deserving employees don't like being cheated out of their promised pensions and medical benefits that makes them cynics? And yes, we have been cheated. Like I said before, if the money was not there to pay the benefits originally promised, there is NO WAY IBM could have (or still is) paying these outrageous bonuses to our Sr. execs.

    No, the only problem is that IBM can not afford to do both, and has made a conscious decision to pay out the big (and generally unearned) bonuses rather than keep the promises made to dedicated employees. It's rape, pure and simple.. and when it is all over, IBM will nothing more than an empty shell (we're almost there!!).

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board post: "Re: 2008 healthcare" by "House of Blues". Full excerpt: What a great post!! You have struck to the very core of our discontent. It is the screwing that I believe most object to. The delta on retirement pay is not THAT dramatic but to see that money go into some execs pocket is like bile rising in my throat. And I love the bull that "we need to do it to retain our executives". Maybe, just maybe, we need to let some of them go. Bring in new blood.

    Funny that every time there is an RA, employees go by the bunch, managers go by tiny amounts and execs (who supposedly run the business) get bonuses.

    Now some will say it is the corporate way. But I, for one, always expected more from IBM just as they always expected more from me. Thanks for taking the time to write this....

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board post: IBM Endicott Country Club to be auctioned. Full excerpt: The IBM Country club is to be sold at a public auction on Tuesday October 30th. The complete complex including 9.3 acres, the buildings and the pools is offered. This will include the attached brick home of Thomas Watson. The main building is 120,000 sq ft. I don't think the golf course is involved in this sale. This ad was in the Sunday NY Times. I didn't use the complex much but I did bowl there some. Left Endicott in 1994 when Glendale labs were closed.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board post: "Re: Aetna Experience" by "jschuler11". Full excerpt: Personally, I think UHC should be ranked at the bottom of any list you are considering. I've had the misfortune of being forced into UHC before I retired and now again after retirement. Although they are mere "administrators" of IBM's money with regards to employees and retirees, my experience is that they are slow in paying for legitimate claims, make false representations to cause delays of claims through resubmittal, and use incorrect schedules to make payments from. Recently I spoke with the insurance department person at my doctor's office about Aetna and UHC. She gave a thumbs down on UHC's practices. Recently UHC paid an out of court settlement to one of the states for failure to pay claims by claiming the insured used a non-network doctor when in fact, they had.

    One of my doctor's said UHC failed to pay him from the proper payment schedule for an in office procedure, instead paying him from a previous year's schedule in which the procedure was a hospital outpatient procedure, shorting him about $2000. Even the State Insurance Commissioner could not force them to correct it.

    In 2000, I was insured by Aetna, when my wife was admitted to a non- network hospital in Hawaii. Even though they didn't pay until they were billed twice, they paid 100% of the bill after my copay. Other than that incident, I had no problems with Aetna, and I used them for a few years. Even the Aetna Dental DMO worked well. And I never encountered any office that wouldn't accept Aetna.

    You should note Aetna may be different in each state (the same for UHC, I suppose), because the insurer is licensed separately in each state and has it's own individual identity apart from the others. Formally, ours is called Aetna Oklahoma. Can Aetna Connecticut be different? I haven't the foggiest idea.

    Being on Medicare, when my wife reaches that pinnacle in her life, we will be looking at a Medicare Supplemental plan to join. But I've already ruled out AARP's offering and Secure Horizons because they're both either owned or administered by UHC.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board post: "FHA Rates - 2008" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: Here are the FHA Rates - 2008 - Non-Medicare, One Person Only:
    • IBM Low Deductible ($507): 673.02 Monthly, 8,076.24 Yearly
    • IBM Medium Deductible ($1,000): 574.36 Monthly, 6,892.32 Yearly
    • IBM High Deductible ($2,500): 480.26 Monthly, 5,763.12 Yearly
    • IBM Exclusive Provider (no deductible): 658.09 Monthly, 7,897.08 Yearly
    • IBM High Deductible with HSA ($1,611): 554.35, 6,652.20 Yearly
    • Aetna Open Choice ($1,100): 619.54, 7,434.48 Yearly

    My prescription bill runs a little over 5K a year. Therefore, I always go with the IBM Low Deductible because there is no limit on what the plan pays for prescriptions in a calendar year. (The Medium and High Deductible plans have prescription caps while the Low does not)

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board post: "Re: 2008 Rates" by "Bill C". Full excerpt: I am 60 years old and my wife is 59 so neither are eligible for medicare. I retired at the end of last year. I am thinking of getting a job. Does anyone know if I go back to work for a company that has medical benefits whether I could not sign up for benefits this coming year but resume IBM benefits the following year (2009) without problems? I retired under the old plan if that might be a factor. Thanks.
  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange message board post: "Re: 2008 Rates" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: Yes, you can drop out of IBM's health plans at any time. However, you must prove continuous coverage, which means you can only drop out of IBM and drop into a new job's plan at the same time. You can not be without health coverage at all. Same going back in. You can go from your job's plan back into IBM's plan at the same time. Bottom line, you must have continuous coverage.

    You do realize that with most jobs now, you don't qualify for health care unless you have worked there first for 6 months, 1 year, and in some cases, 2 years first. It isn't like the old days when you got a job and had health coverage by the end of the week. So plan on using IBM's health care until your job's health care benefits kick in.

    Also, you do realize that you must work full time on that new job to qualify for health care. A lot of companies book you for less than full time, hence, you never qualify for health care because you can't get full time hours worked.

    Also, when you finally qualify for their health benefits, after the waiting period, after earning a full time hours worked, you may end up with a high deductible health plan where you first pay thousands of dollars up front in premiums, deductibles, and co-pays before you receive any benefit at all. Oh wait, I just described some of IBM's plans.

    Lastly, you might want to vote in those congresscritters that advocate health insurance for those in the 55 - 65 age gap (prior to Medicare). Personally, I would like to see it. However, since Bush is vetoing the SCHIP program (health care for low income children), I'm sure he would not like it if those between 55 - 65 were covered too. Problem he has with it is that for every 100 persons with a health plan covered by SCHIP or otherwise, it crowds out 40 persons that would otherwise buy their insurance from private company. Those companies want the policies and premiums from those 40 people, and the hell with the other 60. (oh let them eat cake for heavens sake)

    So there you have it. Yes, get a job. Work full time (you might have to fight for those hours). Qualify for benefits after a year or so. Then prove continuous coverage from IBM's plan over to their plan. You are all set!

  • Washington Post: Edwards Demands Corporate Responsibility. By Amy Lorentzen. Excerpts: Democrat John Edwards on Friday released a plan he said would increase corporate responsibility, including limits on executive compensation packages and requirements that big businesses operate more openly.

    The presidential candidate said his plan would also restore retirement security for the middle class through tax reforms and savings help, allowing more people to put aside money and purchase stock from companies. He said those companies would perform better for regular workers under his corporate reform proposals.

    Edwards said a culture of greed has taken over and that while profits are skyrocketing on Wall Street, "main street is drowning under a sea of costs and debt."

    Instead of protecting the compact of equal opportunity and shared prosperity, Washington protects corporate profits and hoards prosperity of the few," he told a crowd gathered in downtown Des Moines. "This is wrong, it is shameful, and it is bad for our economy to boot."

    Edwards said companies and their lobbyists can't be allowed to write their own rules any longer, and he called it "the moral test of our generation whether we are going to ensure that our children have a better life than we've had." ...

    The former North Carolina senator said it's especially important to force companies to honor their pension promises. In recent years, he said, about two-thirds of companies have frozen their plans, and many workers are seeing cutbacks in their pensions. Companies also should not be allowed to strip workers of pension benefits through corporate reorganization, or be able to classify workers as contractors to avoid paying them benefits, he said.

  • Yahoo! IBM Retiree Information Exchange: "Re: Anybody see or hear from Randy MacDonald lately? He usually issues an annual" by "Bob Sutton". Full excerpt: Given this year's increases exceeding any I have seen to date many IBMers will in the next few years be faced with the cruelest of decisions; to drop IBM health care and go to local clinics and ERs as low income and indigent people do today because there is no other way they can pay these premiums and still live an independent life.

    We all have seen the greed of these execs and have railed against it verbally and to some extent legally. Greed that has as its core the premise that if they can take away wages and benefits from employees and retirees it will personally benefit them not the traditional rewards given execs of growing the business.

    We are now entering a whole new era of this greed; the conscious and planned total denial of IBM medical benefits that were inferred and verbally promised to many of us as legacy retirees of IBM. This is being done to us in the context of a very profitable corporation with regal bonuses to its current execs unprecedented in business history to retirees who have no time or opportunity to adjust to their new circumstances.

    That will in turn result in the needless future sickness and in some cases premature death of some of your fellow IBMers.

    These execs are now approaching the deserved appellation of murderers. Other than a letter do you really expect them to admit and justify such a crime?

  • Jim Hightower: Making "The List". Excerpts: Time for another peek [lifestyle theme] into the “Lifestyles of the Rich… and Cranky.”

    Those of us in the riff-raff class rarely realize how hard life is for the rich. I don’t mean the merely rich, but the richy-rich – the billionaire class. Yes, if you’re one of them, you’ve got half a dozen luxurious houses around the world, servants galore, private jets and helicopters, your own chef, and… well, anything you want. But what if you don’t “make it?”

    The “it” is the list, the annual Forbes magazine list of the 400 richest Americans. This is the ultimate social register, the measure of whether your wealth is really “wow”… or just common. Well, this year’s list has come out, and even being a billionaire no longer assures you of making the cut. In fact, being at the very bottom of the list, the 400th richest American, now requires $1.3 billion in wealth. This means that 82 certified American billionaires failed to qualify. How embarrassing is that? You can practically feel their pain, can’t you?

    Part of the problem for run-of-the-mill billionaires is that a horde of Wall Street speculators have recently zoomed to a level of über-wealth, thanks to the unregulated schemes of hedge-fund managers and private equity executives. Of the 45 newcomers to this year’s Forbes list, half made their bundles in such schemes. With these operators pocketing billions of bucks, such regulars as the honcho of Starbucks and an heiress to the Campbell Soup fortune were bumped right off the Forbes list. See… it’s a cruel world.

    Interestingly, these high-flying Wall Streeters have been lobbying furiously in Washington to stave off any regulation of their financial flim-flammery and, especially, to forestall efforts to tax their pots of gold. After all, if they are regulated and taxed, even at the low level of other billionaires… they are not likely to make next year’s list.

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
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  • New York Times: America’s Lagging Health Care System. Excerpts: Americans are increasingly frustrated about the subpar performance of this country’s fragmented health care system, and with good reason. A new survey of patients in seven industrialized nations underscores just how badly sick Americans fare compared with patients in other nations. One-third of the American respondents felt their system is so dysfunctional that it needs to be rebuilt completely — the highest rate in any country surveyed. The system was given poor scores both by low-income, uninsured patients and by many higher-income patients. ...

    Given the large number of people uninsured or poorly insured in this country, it was no surprise that Americans were the most likely to go without care because of costs. Fully 37 percent of the American respondents said that they chose not to visit a doctor when sick, skipped a recommended test or treatment or failed to fill a prescription in the past year because of the cost — well above the rates in other countries.

    Patients here were more likely to get appointments quickly for elective surgery than those in nearly all the other countries. But access to primary care doctors, the mainstay of medical practice, was often rocky. Only half of the American adults were able to see a doctor the same day that they became sick or the day after, a worse showing than in all the other countries except Canada. Getting care on nights and weekends was problematic.

    Often the care here was substandard. Americans reported the highest rate of lab test errors and the second-highest rate of medical or medication errors.

  • San Jose Mercury-News, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Plan: Competing health insurance plans equally flawed. By Malinda Markowitz. Excerpts: It’s time to wave the warning flag on the steamroller demanding action on health care this year - no matter what it is. Rather than resulting in sound policy, the drumbeat could just as easily produce a hastily designed “compromise” that perpetuates our state’s health care crisis while stalling real reform for years to come.

    Consider Massachusetts, whose mandatory health insurance law is the model for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal and which provided much of the inspiration for a similar legislative proposal vetoed by Schwarzenegger earlier this month. ...

    Today the law remains a mess. Despite tax penalties for failure to buy insurance, only 20 percent of the uninsured have purchased the mandatory plans - and 94 percent of those who have enrolled received full or partial public subsidies. ...

    Neither approach constrains skyrocketing premiums, deductibles, co-pays, drug costs or hospital charges. That’s a fatal flaw. Millions of Californians are likely to end up with junk insurance that increases their health insecurity with policies that will jeopardize their financial health if they use medical care or encourage them to self-ration and not use the care they still have to pay for. ...

    A second point of contention is how much tax will be levied on employers who don’t provide health coverage for workers. But both the amount favored by the governor, and the one in the Núñez bill that was vetoed, are substantially less than what the average California business offering health plans now pays, a clear incentive for businesses to reduce coverage or drop benefits entirely and just pay the tax.

    Sadly, the main beneficiaries of a rushed “compromise” will be the same insurance companies that created the present crisis. They would harvest millions of new customers, with the government using its power and the public purse to further an insurance industry that will continue to be able to profiteer and deny care.

    We don’t have to turn just to Massachusetts to see an example of how this can lead to disastrous public policy. A decade ago, the same “consensus” pushed the hurried passage of energy deregulation. That was followed by blackouts, skyrocketing energy costs for consumers, financial calamity for the state, and open thievery by Enron and other energy corporations.

  • The New England Journal of Medicine: Learning from Failure in Health Care Reform. By Jonathan Oberlander, Ph.D. Excerpts: Since 1994, inaction and incrementalism have governed U.S. health policy, with the predictable result that both health care spending and the number of uninsured Americans have reached record levels. Indeed, worsening conditions in the health care system have triggered renewed interest in comprehensive health care reform. Signs of change in the health care debate are everywhere — in the formation of coalitions by business and labor groups to pursue reform, the launching of advertising campaigns by the American Cancer Society and the American Medical Association to highlight the plight of the uninsured, the pursuit of ambitious plans by states such as Massachusetts to expand insurance coverage, and the unveiling of an array of health care reform plans by candidates in the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries. Health care reform is even the subject of an attention-grabbing movie, Michael Moore's Sicko.

    It is thus tempting to believe that the moment for reform has finally arrived and that we stand on the verge of historic change. Yet before reform advocates get too exuberant, they would do well to remember what happened the last time health care reform topped the national agenda. In the early 1990s, reformers also believed that the conditions were ripe for change; then, as now, soaring health care costs and growth of the uninsured population fueled public dissatisfaction (see table). When President Bill Clinton took office in 1993 with Democratic majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, the country appeared inexorably headed toward health care reform. But just a year after its introduction in September 1993, the Clinton Health Security Act (see box) was dead in Congress. What happened to the Clinton plan, and what lessons can today's reformers learn from its failure?

  • Baltimore Sun, courtesy of Physicians for a National Health Program: Say yes to national health care. By Michael Hochman and David Himmelstein. Excerpts: As doctors at an urban hospital, we see uninsured patients in the emergency room with serious illnesses that easily could have been prevented with appropriate preventive care. We waste countless hours filling out unnecessary insurance forms. And we listen to patients complain about the complexities and hassles of navigating the health care system.

    This is why an increasing number of us on the front lines have started calling for meaningful change in the form of a single-payer system in which the government funds health care. ...

    Opponents of a single-payer system argue that single payer could be even more inefficient and bureaucratic than the current system. They point to other countries, such as Canada, that have national health insurance and yet have long wait times to see doctors.

    But research supports the opposite conclusion. For example, a 2003 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the average overhead of U.S. insurance companies is 11.7 percent, compared with 3.6 percent for Medicare and 1.3 percent for Canada’s national health insurance program. And the waits in Canada are a result of Canada’s low level of health spending - on a per capita basis, about half that in the United States. The efficiency of Canada’s national health insurance program coupled with our current high level of health funding would yield the world’s best health care system. ...

    Some also suggest that the quality of health care would decline under a single-payer system. But again, this is unlikely. Life expectancy is shorter and infant mortality rates are higher in the United States compared with most nations with a single-payer system, and a comprehensive analysis has found that Canadians receive care at least as good as most insured Americans. The only difference would be that instead of sending bills to private insurance companies - a difficult and time-intensive process - doctors and hospitals would bill the national health insurance program. ...

    Despite the merits of a single-payer system, none of the major 2008 presidential candidates supports it. Instead, they have put forth a creative array of meaningless, incremental reforms that would do little for our failing system. ...

    Although few mainstream politicians endorse single payer, we see reason for optimism. A recent survey of Massachusetts physicians found that almost two-thirds favor single payer, and we believe health care providers are coming around nationwide as well. We hope the political thrust for single payer will come soon. If it doesn’t, we face a future of more wasteful spending, more inefficiency - and ever more Americans struggling to get by without health insurance.

  • US News & World Report: Paying a High Price for Mental Health. Paltry insurance coverage could soon get a boost. By Nancy Shute. Excerpts: Meghann Eckerdt was a straight-A valedictorian, but last spring's high school graduation wasn't a joy. She skipped the senior week parties because eating in public made her anxious. She would agonize over whether the yogurt she'd packed really was strawberry or whether her sandwich had the right number of slices of bread. "When you're so ill from a mental illness, you shut yourself off from the world," says Eckerdt, 18, who was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder as a sixth grader.

    Yet she is now a freshman at Montana State University, taking six classes, living in the dorm, and hanging out with friends. "I've been doing outstanding," Eckerdt says. "Not every day is good. But now I know that if one thing goes wrong, I don't have to have a bad day; I can have a bad moment. I learned that in treatment"—two months of cognitive-behavioral therapy at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wis., during the summer.

    The price her family paid for her progress: $22,380. That was on top of $15,040 Ken and Jenny Eckerdt paid out of pocket for 51 days of inpatient treatment in 2006. Her parents have health insurance, but they'd burned through their coverage and had to pay upfront with retirement funds and credit cards.

    Many families find themselves similarly strapped. The need for mental-health treatment is great—an estimated 1 in 4 Americans has a diagnosable mental disorder; 6 percent suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other serious problem. But coverage falls far short. It is not unusual for a policy to set a lifetime limit of $1 million for medical care but just $50,000 for mental-health treatment.

    "If our daughter was told she had cancer, the first question in our mind when we looked at our insurance policy would not be 'I wonder whether they can cure this within the 30-day limitation for the calendar year?'" says Jenny, a legal secretary for the city of Billings. She praises her plan's administrator for wringing every possible dollar out of their coverage. "It's just that when the plan states you have 30 days, there's no 'Gee, can I have a few more days because I need them?'" she says. "It's 'no.' It's not appealable."

  • US News & World Report: U.S. health insurers suggest Swiss, Dutch as prototypes. By Julie Appleby. Excerpts: America's health insurers put the spotlight on their counterparts in Europe Wednesday, part of an effort to demonstrate that not all countries with universal health systems have government-run programs like Canada or the United Kingdom.

    "There's an assumption (in the public) that universal coverage means government-run," says Karen Ignagni, president of the industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, which sponsored briefings with policymakers and reporters here.

    Executives from Swiss and Dutch health insurers spoke at the briefings, which come amid growing discussion about whether and how to change the health care system in the USA. Next week, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt goes on a fact-finding trip to Switzerland and the Netherlands.

    Both spend less on health care than the United States does. The Dutch spend 9.2% of their economy on health care, while the Swiss spend 11.6%. The U.S. spends 16%. "Wholesale adoption of such a system in the United States is unlikely, but they may have learned some lessons that could improve the delivery of health care in this country," says Kevin Schweers, a spokesman for HHS.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site:
Minimize
  • Update on Virtual strike in support of IBM Italy Employees: IBM Italy CEO Resigns! Following the historical protest against IBM Italy in Second Life, on 27th September, some important developments have taken place:
    • Mr Andrea Pontremoli, IBM Italy’s CEO (who personally received all of your petitions by email) has resigned. It seems our Virtual action had an impact on his role at IBM. IBM Corporation made a complaint to IBM Italy for the way they’ve managed the negotiations with the thousands of employees and how they’ve let it lead to such a harmful image for the company.
    • The works council hopes to return to the negotiations' table: we'll hear more at the beginning of next week.

    A big thank you goes to all people who supported IBM Italy workers in their struggle over the last 6 weeks. From protesters who came to Second Life and joined the action, to the petitioners who wrote letters to IBM Europe management, to those who took the time to give their ideas on how to proceed when there were no visible results to our protest and to the press who covered the event in more than 30 countries which helped put pressure on IBM as well.

  • From the Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 10/26/07: to: -SoreSphincter- It's rather ironic that IBM pushed a lot of older 1/2 performers down to PBC 3 last year. Then they used the 3 rating to make sure you were RA'd. I would be surprised if any PBC 3's were left at IBM right now. So if you were a PBC 2 RA'd now, you would get less than a PBC 3 RA'd last spring. At least I got 2 weeks for every year and a new job before the severance ran out. -RA'd bear-
    • Comment 10/27/07: PBC=3 last year 29 Years & 60. Was never 3 before. Always put down on every turn by young team mates. Got fed up, because my technical skills far above mates. So wrote up all their secret failures and sent them to mgr. event and results. Never have done this in all my 29 years of work. -Skip Rock-
    • Comment 10/28/07: I was told by manager on 10/25 that there were resource actions in WPLC and AIM services. I heard from a colleague that around 2% of the work force was affected in these divisions. I wasn't affected nor do I know the severance package. -Lotus Employee from RTP-
    • Comment 10/28/07: Now those wielding the swords of cutting headcount are looking beyond a last appraisal of 3 - they're looking for ANY history of a 3 rating regardless of the current appraisal. It doesn't matter what your rating is, or your productivity, or your skills, or your impact on the business or anything else. If you are between an executive and his bonus, you're gone. Of course HR reps that direct management who to cut forget that they too, shall be doomed to the cuts themselves. -General Heinrich Nuisance-
    • Comment 10/29/07: For those of you who are out there looking for new employment, take heart... the next resume you send out might just reach someone like me! I was RA'd from IBM in June and am now a manager looking to fill a position on my team. If you're looking for work in Austin, TX, on Monster or Dice, you'll almost certainly find the job I have open. I'm looking for YOU, so PLEASE apply. I'll make it worth your while! -I'm HIRING!-
    • Comment 10/30/07: Any legs on the WIPRO buying out GTS rumor? -GTSbuyout??-
    • Comment 10/30/07: I'm hearing more and more rumors about the wipro / igs sso deal coming about the beginning of the New Year. -miss understanding-
    • Comment 10/31/07: The GTS - Wipro buyout certainly has legs. A large number of GTS executives in India in the last 2 weeks. Sudden transfers like McMillan to protect some favored people and some surprise exec departures like Schwanhauser give the rumor even more legs. -Future Wipro GTS Employee-
    • Comment 10/31/07: There was a layoff in WPLC (SWG) 10/25 - I have heard 75 people - I believe those are in WTF and RTP, primarily. Folks have until 11/28 to find job but, even if find job, have to go through upper level approvals to receive job - so unlikely. I heard they did not do it based on PBC, but on "skill assessment" - a few examples of folks I have heard laid off were complainers - lesson there = no negativity at IBM - it will lose you your job. Be careful telling any coworker your true feelings. -usingNonIBMmachine!-
    • Comment 11/01/07: Here's my take on Unions, particularly organizing a Union at IBM. Being in a union will not change the pervasive arrogant attitudes that so many upper level managers and execs display. While there may be a sense of confidence that one's job can't just be taken away for no reason, or that annual raises will be a given, the arrogant culture at the top will not change. What people want is to be treated properly beyond job security and raises. They want to feel appreciated for a job well done. A union contract will not make managers or execs treat people with respect.

      A company's culture instills in it's managers whether or not the worker is treated with respect. There is an old Italian saying, "The fish stinks from the head down". Unfortunately, a union contract will not deodorize this stinking, rancid culture that is today's IBM. My suggestion is for all who are unhappy at IBM, and there are many, to begin the personal organization of resume building, job hunting and networking. Explore other careers, investigate companies, find out what it is that will make you happy and go for it. Life goes by very fast and speeds up with every passing year. Soon, we will all be dust and none of this will matter. So find a place that makes you happy, respects you as an individual and most of all enjoy what you do ( even if it's for less money) Just my opinion. -Anon-

    • Comment 11/02/07: To the myopic ideologue who said "America got where it is by excellence, not protectionism." - The problem with your reasoning is you assume domestic job reductions are done perfectly efficiently so only the most excellent employees remain. However, the determination of who leaves and who can stay is not based on excellence but on personal power within the company. The inefficient bloated management structure protects itself and remains intact. This is in the best interests of nobody (not even the shareholders or the markets) except those managers, including less than excellent ones, who redistribute the company's wealth to themselves.

      If there is more balance of power between management and employees so that management has to put more resources into where the product value really gets added - the employees - then management would have less resources for use in tolerating incompetent, inefficient, and bloated management structure. The result - a more efficient and "excellent" company all the way around. It's basic economics - if you want to improve economic efficiency throw the resources towards where the shareholder value gets added - non-managerial employees. If you instead want to systematically dismantle the company while redistributing wealth to where shareholder value doesn't get added - throw the resources at bloated management. I happen to think the former is best for the market economy and for society. -a little birdie-

    • Comment 11/02/07: I think a lot of people don't understand what a union could do. IBM has become a company that mistreats it's employees. They have slashed our pension simply because they could. They could 'afford' 40+ billion in stock buybacks, but 'couldn't afford' to honor a fraction of that amount in pension promises. They are starting to cut the severance. They are manipulating the remaining workers through fear. They are basically picking employees off one by one because IBM management is organized, and the workers aren't.

      If I could wave my magic wand and have all of IBM in North America unionized tomorrow, I agree that IBM would continue downsizing and offshoring, and would not ever go back to the good place to work it was 20 years ago. They would still be a bunch of bastards, but at least those bastards would have to face to face deal with the remaining workers, A union would have the power to stand up to management and make them listen to and deal with the workers. Those left could improve conditions and save some of the jobs. Those workers who did get laid off from a unionized IBM would have a union that could negotiate for better severance and fairer termination.

      As it is, as IBM slowly fires more and more of its US workers, they are going to give the remanding workers less and less and treat them worse and worse. At this point, IBM has enough assets in North America that the union has some leverage. IBM would lose a ton of money not dealing with a North American Union today. As the years progress without a union, the leverage will decrease until the last North American worker turns off the light. -ExRochBeamer-

    • Comment 11/02/07: The virtual strike in Italy has gotten attention from the Armonkies. Not only did Sam fire the Exec that couldn't squelch the Italian uprising, but it appears Randy "the Leprechaun" McDonald has launched a covert operation aimed at discouraging union activism and one of his henchmen has just spammed our message board. DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. Organize!! It can make a difference! By the way, is everyone aware that management has a mandate to report any signs of union organization in their departments to their HR partner? Are you aware that IBM has HR people working full-time to undermine any union efforts? When the Cringley article came out, don't think for a second that HR didn't adjust their game plan. They didn't change the strategic objective, only the tactical plans. A union can make a difference!! -Lexington-
    • Comment 11/02/07: RTP STG is terminating contractors again. I know one specifically. Anyone know more? Are Regulars in the mix of layoffs also? -HowMany-
  • General Visitor's Comment page:
    • Comment 10/26/07: Band 7 at the time of class action, band 8 now. Checks (two of them) one without withholdings, the other with, were $9000 gross, $7400 net -sumguy-
    • Comment 10/27/07: Concerning Overtime Lawsuit Payouts: I understand that the lower the band, the higher the payout. I was a band 6/7 and am covered for about two years of the payout period. I averaged 15-20 hours OT a week. I calculated my payout using the formula that was provided, and came up with six hundred, some odd dollars. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think so. IBM settled the Lawsuit so quickly because they knew they were guilty and could buy the overtime for pennies on the dollar. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 10/27/07: Got my settlement. Non CA, band 6, worked the full time frame, over $8,000 in checks total. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 10/28/07: I received an email from an ALLIANCEIBM userid last week. Congratulations to whomever figured out how to do this. NICE WORK!!!!! I hope it went to every employee in the country; and I hope a few copies got sent to all the widow robbers and pensions thieving scum down in Armonk! -hr-follies-
    • Comment 10/28/07: 2 checks came in last Saturday, One taxed, one for interest. Total approx $3500, that equals to $2 overtime pay per day for 10 years. Good deal, IBM! -Anonymous- Alliance Reply: It's unfortunate, to say the least, that absent a union contract; the employees had to sue IBM to get even a portion of the OT pay, that they rightfully earned. This should make every employee Think about what Alliance@IBM has been telling you for the past several years. ORGANIZE!
    • Comment 10/29/07: In follow up to my previous post: I received my checks today. $599.80 Gross. A conservative estimate of over time pay lost is $40,000 gross. No wonder IBM settled so quickly. They settled my over time for 1 penny on the dollar. I ask again. How did IBM resolve the original issue--that folks are working overtime and are not being compensated. Can another lawsuit be filed on behalf of Sys Admins, Ops Analyst, and Team Leads on shift work? -Anonymous-
    • Comment 10/29/07: Retired in 2004 with 38 years in IGS as Band 8. Two checks totaling $750 with $250 withheld. -Retired 2004-
    • Comment 10/29/07: I simply want to provide insight for future IBM retirees as to how they can expect to be treated by IBM in return for their many years of dedicated service. I retired in 2005 after 21 years of successful and dedicated service to the IBM Corporation. Prior to my retirement, while still an active employee, my health care cost per month was $330. Shortly after retiring I received my monthly health insurance premium bill (for the same plan and same family) of $1,042 per month.

      Today (10/29/07) I received my annual "love letter" from Randy Mac Donald (Sr. VP of Human Resources) stating that my new monthly premium was being increased to $1,402 per month reflecting a 35% increase from the prior year's premium and what amounted to a monthly premium of more than 4 times what I paid as an active employee only 2 years ago.

      Thanks, IBM, for being so considerate to those who dedicated their professional lives to your success. Having just turned 62 years of age, I now look forward to endorsing my monthly social security check over to IBM every month. Please, Mr. Mac Donald, don't send any more cover letters with your annual benefits package touting how IBM is at the forefront of employee/retiree benefits. -Retired 2005-

    • Comment 10/29/07: Band 7 in IGS received 2 checks each for $1181.52 - one for the total amount which is interest and the other with taxes taken out for a net pay of $708.91. Interesting how all the amounts differ. -Anon-
    • Comment 10/29/07: To wake up..I got 2 checks close to to $5000 from the OT case and my fiancee got aver $8000. Guess your numbers were a little off. -Anon-
    • Comment 10/29/07: Just rec'd my settlement checks today...over $31K on a pretax award of almost $39K...not a bad dream world (see comment from WAKEUP on 10/26.) Of course, I'd rather still be employed with "cheap" healthcare and other benefits. I was a Band 7 employee (in California) for years.. -Former IBM slave-
    • Comment 10/29/07: Received Rosenburg Checks Amounting to 901.68 $. 500.16 and 401.52. Band 8 - avg 70hrs a week. Go Figure -ThisIsNuts-
    • Comment 10/29/07: Somebody call a Brinks truck! I just got two $246 payments in the mail. Hooo-Haaa! I've been retired for a year, was Band 9 -- became exempt in 1968. -BlueThruNThru-
    • Comment 10/29/07: I received just under $6000 for the OT lawsuit. Thanks IBM for the"required" 13% OT. -Good ol' Claim-
    • Comment 10/29/07: Received 2 checks today for OT law suit. One was for $1700 and the other $2800 for a total of $4500. I was a level 6 when I left last year. I was with IGS in Endicott in 2001 when I was forced to go exempt. The $4500 will go to good use since I have been unemployed for a year now and getting to the point where I'm not going to be able to pay my bills and have to sell the house, so this will at least get me through the Holidays! Thanks to the people of California for getting us this money! If it wasn't for them and this Web page we would have probably never have heard another word about it. -Anonymous- Alliance Reply: Thanks for the kudos on the web site. The alliance got the word out about this lawsuit by sending mass emails to our subscriber list and put the information up on the web site.
    • Comment 10/30/07: I was RA'd in May, but I did receive my checks for the overtime Lawsuit on Monday. The two totaled ~$8400. I was a band 6 during the timeframe of the lawsuit, usually working 60-70 hours per week. Now I have a job where I work only 40 hours per week, no overtime, no nights, no weekends, and no on-call. It's so refreshing -Glad to be Gone-
    • Comment 10/30/07: I doubt this will be included in the pension pot. IBM was supposed to contribute 6% of all my pay in the Cash Balance plan. When I was RA'd in June I never saw a penny - and IBM included a note in the RA papers stating this was exempt. That statement disagreed with the original plan description on Cash Balance. Methinks there is another potential lawsuit that IBM could be liable. I just got 2 Rosenberg checks for $6000. It was an extremely pleasant surprise. I am going to donate $120 of it to the Alliance Membership drive. Maybe we can use the funds to work on the pension issue. - RA'd bear-
    • Comment 10/30/07: Anyone who is annoyed at not getting enough of settlement $ from the Rosenburg vs. IBM O/T case (your probably the same whiners who complained about the settlement from the Cooper vs. IBM case): If you had a CONTRACT you would be rightfully have been paid for the O/T that IBM settled for which is pennies on the dollar per employees and former employees in the class action. Union contracts clearly spell out O/T eligibility so there is no company management interpretation about who is to be compensated for it and who is not. In this case IBM management wrongly interpreted labor law in regards to overtime eligibility; hence the reason they decided to settle the case this way. With the courts being increasingly "pro business", how can you blame the plaintiffs for the settlement? Litigation does not guarantee you anything: a union contract does. So stop complaining and get organized! Get a contract. The only way to get it is to join the Alliance. -sby_willie-
    • Comment 10/31/07: Band 6 entire career. A low level schmoe I was. A LOW LEVEL SCHMOE WITH ROSEBURG CHECKS TOTALLING BETTER THEN $14,000 after taxes! WOO FRICKING HOO! -RA'd In MASS-
    • Comment 10/31/07: The second check is definitely taxable. The 1099-INT form attached to the check was also sent to the IRS. If you don't claim it, expect the IRS to come a'knockin'. 50% was wage income, the other 50% check I think was the "penalty" aspect we won from the lawsuit. They're split cause they're taxed differently. On the plus side though, it won't be taxed as badly as the "wage taxed" check, since social security, unemployment, etc taxes don't come out of interest wages. It'll be taxed like interest on a savings account would be. Be sure to set some of those funds aside for your possibly larger tax bill if need be! -Anonymous-
  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments
  • PBC Comments
    • Comment 10/20/07: Prior Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr Bonus = 3.8K; Prior Yr Bonus = 3.5K; Message = Long story short - if you've got a decent salary and you're making a living then to heck with it. What many in my group have realized is that the raises are so damn insignificant that its not worth the effort trying to attain a 1 so why bother? Sit back, relax, do the bare minimum take your 0 and go home at the end of the day. On the other hand you could work your butt off for a lousy 1 or 2 %. To me this is the main thing IBM is missing. Every year they dangle the carrot for you and never follow through so there's no point in trying. My goal now is to do as little as possible so that I can say relatively speaking I get paid well. -Chauncy-
    • Comment 10/20/07: Prior Yr PBC = 2+; This Yr PBC = ?; This Yr Bonus = 0; Prior Yr Bonus = tiny; Message = PBC ratings have NOTHING to do with PAY! Nothing to do with raises. Nothing to do with promotions. I have been an "old" PBC "2" and a "new" PBC 2+ for over 10 years now. My pay as a band 08 is still about 30% below midpoint. It seriously lags market pay in USA NE and mid atlantic regions. If your salary is so low even with any TCA (if you are lucky to even be able to get one or your job classification is part of it) it will never allow you to catch up. I can forget about getting a PBC "1" since that is reserved for those that are paid well already and brown nose their management! A chance to get promoted to the next band? Forget it. I can't since even with a "huge double digit raise" will not even get me into the minimum pay for the next band. And that chance for a "double digit raise" is a farce since we know that doesn't happen anymore in this Big Blew unless you are an IBM Director or higher or an IBM Executive or Mr. "I got a 29% raise in 2006" CEO Palmisano -why_workin_IBM-
    • Comment 11/02/07: HR partner says for PBC all will be now be graded on "relative contribution". Not how much work you actually do, but how much more than your peers you do. Do they really teach turning worker-on-worker in management these days? Idiots, no one will want to work here (I'm only here for the money). -RankingIsTheName-
  • International Comments
Vault Message Board Posts:
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Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. A few sample posts follow:

  • "IBM wants money back" by "racinante". Full excerpt: I left IBM GBS a few months ago and thought I have closed the book on that part of my career. However, I recently received a letter from IBM saying that my last paycheck was overpaid by "x" amount and they want me to pay it back as soon as possible. Anyone have experience with this? Do I just fork over the money, or is there a legal process that I should follow? What if I refuse to pay? Please, only people that have experience with this. The amount is 4 figures. Not a lot, but definitely not little.
  • "Please, don't offer some tangible advice, thanks!" by "dethinker1". Full excerpt: I joined IBM in July, and have yet been staffed on a project full time. I've helped out on some proposals, but so far my chargeable utilization since I joined for the year is <30%. My manager and SAL tells me this situation is rare and they are sorry for keeping me on the bench all this time.

    I didn't have any internship in college, had joined IBM from a top 20 ranked University with some intention of moving on to better things after 1-2 years.

    I look back on reading this board 10 months ago and laughing at myself now, just how right on your comments have been. But, back then I thought it was just the result of a bunch of disgruntled workers.

    Now, I need some serious advice, on what you would do, this is not the situation I imagined myself to be in, getting paid for doing nothing, not getting any career opportunities, and almost zero educational value, except these stupid online classes that I am asked to do for the past 4 months, that are of no value at all.

  • "You Must Plan and Act Quickly" by "ancientblueconsultant". Full excerpt: No use crying over a career mistake. We have all done one at some time or another. The lesson here is to never let yourself fall under the spell of a corporate recruiter again. The comments about the fact that this is rare are true. The reality is that most folks would have been fired by now. For some reason, they either overlooked you or have a need to have you around, maybe for university propaganda purposes.

    So far, it appears you have 2 assets. You are young and probably with not too many obligations and you graduated from a top 20 ranked school.

    First, get going on getting yourself recruited ASAP. Quickly go back to your alma matter and put your name out in the employment office. Even if the blue pig sees you keep getting your name out at the school. Wherever you are, start networking in local circles lobbying for the job.

    If you are technical, consider short term technical certifications that you can do while still being paid by IBM. They probably won't support you, but the certifications can help sharpen your skills and give you access to other folks who may have access to jobs. Consider certifications like MCSE, CISO, CCIE, Red Hat, PMP.

    If you aren't technical, decide what industry you can target and see if you can rustle up going on sales calls with client teams to customers in that sector. A visit, contacts are invaluable.

    Ask why you aren't going on engagements while other new employees are getting assignments. Knowing that will help you as you interview for a new job somewhere else. Don't despair. Just get going and start looking for another job somewhere else.

  • "Is IBM's Retail Practice any good?" by "CIOe55". Excerpt: I know IBM is scooping ACN resources from the Retail Practice, and they are paying them a large sum of money. IBM offered me 30k more than what i am making at ACN. But i don't know if its worth it to jump .I was reading the board and a ton of ibm'ers are complaining about IBM. Are the clients good in the Retail practice? Also if your out in the west coast will they make you travel to the east coast? I'll be coming in as a Sr. Consultant. What kind of work do sr .consultants do at IBM is it very technical or is it client facing; because I am not a technical person.
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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