In addition, IBM said the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia had served IBM and certain employees with grand jury subpoenas requesting testimony and documents on interactions between the EPA and IBM employees.
A person familiar with the matter said concerns were raised within the EPA about how IBM had acquired sensitive information relevant to its pursuit of a contract valued at more than $80 million to help the EPA modernize some of its computer systems. "It appeared they [IBM officials] used some information given to them by an EPA employee who didn't realize the ramification of sharing such information," the person familiar with the matter said.
While the short duration of the suspension means financial damage to IBM was minimal, the admission of apparent legal violations is a black eye for the company, which has long taken pride in its role as a key technology provider to the federal government, its largest single customer, according to people familiar with the matter. IBM Chief Executive Samuel Palmisano kept close track of the situation after the EPA suddenly issued the suspension.
According to an agreement signed by EPA's debarring official, Robert Meunier, and an IBM lawyer, "information available to IBM indicates that one or more IBM employees appear to have obtained and used source-selection information in apparent violation" of the federal Procurement Integrity Act. "IBM officials knew" the information, which was about the competing vendor, "was improperly acquired" and used it in competing for the contract, the agreement says. IBM and the EPA declined to name officials involved or the suspended employees. ...
The suspension surprised government contractors because it wasn't preceded by any warnings or negotiations. Steven Schooner, a procurement law expert at George Washington University Law School, said "as a general rule, mainstream large firms don't get suspended." He noted that suspensions by one agency, which are automatically effective across the entire government, are controversial because "a temporary suspension can be done with no due process, and you can get smeared." Temporary suspensions can last as long as a year.
IBM currently employs 1,900 people at its Vienna office. Around 450 of them are supposed to move to the new locations, mostly senior level managers. IBM Austria spokesman Georg Haberl declined to comment on the report, saying that IBM in Austria has not been informed about any changes yet. "We don't know ourselves what the global headquarters is planning," he said.
The Boices had counted on proceeds from the house sale to boost their retirement income. After a year on the market, the roomy colonial in Blue Springs, Mo., didn't move, forcing the couple to cut the asking price by $40,000 to around $250,000. The house remains unsold. Meanwhile, Mr. Boice has watched the value of his 401(k) and individual retirement accounts fall by roughly 20% so far this year, to a combined $240,000. ...
Mr. Boice has plenty of graying company at the grindstone. Millions of retirement-age Americans, stung by the recent economic pall, suddenly are having to reassess their plans -- with many forced to quickly change course. In February, the proportion of people ages 55 to 64 in the work force rose to 64.8%, up 1.5 percentage points from last April. That translates to more than an additional million people in the job pool, according to the U.S. Labor Department. The ranks of those 65 and over in the work force rose to 16.2% from 16% in the same time span -- meaning 212,000 more hands on deck. So far, the numbers for March continue to show a "sharp" increase, says Steve Hipple, a department economist. ...
A recent Schwab survey of 1,006 financial advisers indicated that nearly a quarter of their clients are considering working longer specifically because of the economic fallout of the past 12 months. Factors other than the gloomy economic outlook may be contributing to stalled retirements, says Mr. Hipple of the Labor Department. Most retirees, of course, get Social Security benefits. But traditional corporate pension plans -- which promised specific, predictable monthly payouts -- are largely a thing of the past.
Over the past three decades, the 401(k) plan has gradually supplanted pension plans as the main source of retirement coverage for U.S. workers in the private sector, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonprofit group. In 1979, it says, 62% of U.S. employees participated only in a pension plan. By 2005, 63% of workers reported that they participated only in a 401(k) plan.
Another big motivation for older workers to stay on the job: scarce health benefits for retirees. Between 1988 and 2007, the percentage of large companies offering retiree health benefits fell by half, to 33%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. ...
Many would-be retirees are angry about the conditions that they see as contributing to the economic downturn. Mr. Boice blames lax lending standards and regulations for dragging down his home value. "What really needs to happen at this point," he says, "is for those that created the subprime mess to have their hands slapped." In Healdsburg, Calif., Jeff Bartman, who has also shifted retirement gears, still considers himself fortunate compared with others. But he points to the Bush administration for many of the country's current woes. "The war, housing, $100 oil...when you look at those things, you blame management. You blame the people running the show," he says. ...
Still, the prospect of millions of grandparents toiling away in their golden years doesn't square with the American Dream. Some aging workers feel denied their due. "I've worked all my life," says Mr. Boice, the IBMer. "It's coming down to a point where I want to try to take life easier and do something I want to do rather than work for someone 9 to 5."
Gail Langan belts out the Beatles tune "When I'm 64" on her bugle. She's not there yet, but retirement is near. The 56-year-old IBM project manager wanted to have more personal time and to play in a drum-and-bugle corps, so she works from home four days a week. It's her version of phased retirement. She has a plan, but her husband died suddenly six years ago, she's contributing to her son's college education, and selling her house is part of that plan.
The H-1B visa allows 65,000 foreigners with at least a bachelor's degree and specific skills to work for a U.S. company for a six-year period. The program allocates an additional 20,000 visas to foreign nationals with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. U.S. high-tech companies for years have called on Congress to increase the cap on visas for skilled foreigners. In testimony to Congress earlier this month, Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates warned lawmakers that the U.S. risks losing its competitive edge in technology unless it can secure qualified workers. "Other nations are benefiting from our misguided policies," Mr. Gates said. "They are revising their immigration policies to attract highly talented students and professionals who would otherwise study, live and work in the United States for at least part of their careers."
Despite wages that can exceed $30 an hour on average, the National Foundation for American Policy found 140,000 high-skilled jobs were still open at S&P 500 companies in January and February of this year despite an increase of 544,000 unemployed workers since February of last year. The NFAP's study found some companies outsourcing jobs to fill critical gaps in their workforces.
The temporary visas have become embroiled in the nation's explosive political debate over immigration in recent years. The visas are only temporary, but critics of the nation's immigration policies, like CNN anchor Lou Dobbs suggest they come at the expense of the middle class. Critics say H-1B visas are little different from outsourcing--just another method, Dobbs argues, of taking jobs from American workers and giving them to foreigners for less money.
The public has been on edge, smarting from the mortgage crisis, stock market volatility, high prices of fuel and now, extensive job losses. In addition, the American IT worker is also affected by the double whammy of H1B visas influx and outsourced jobs. Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin and House Judiciary ranking member Lamar Smith are responding with measures to help such workers.
According to the National Journal's Congress Daily AM, Durbin and Smith are considering limiting the H1B visa use to U.S. companies. "Eight of the top 10 companies seeking H-1B visas in the last round were foreign companies," Durbin said Tuesday. "The foreign companies, by and large, have taken control of the H-1B process. For example, the largest Indian companies are getting thousands of H-1B visas. They then, for a fee, will place engineers from India in American jobs for three years or six years and then, for another fee, place them back in India to compete with American companies. Trust me, that is not what we have in mind with H-1B visas."
In addition Sen. Grassley (R-IA) has written a letter to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reed regarding the abuses in the H-1B visa program and recent testimony heard in the senate (see letter).
"We'll hear arguments all day as to why the cap on H-1B visas should be raised, but nobody should be fooled," said Grassley in a prepared statement. "There are highly skilled American workers being left behind, searching for jobs that are being filled by H-1B visa holders. It's time to close the loopholes and enact real reform."
With U.S. unemployment on the rise, scrutiny of visa worker programs is growing. Critics of H-1B say outsourcers such as Infosys Technologies (INFY) and Wipro (WIT) are abusing the program, replacing U.S. employees with cheaper foreign workers whom they ultimately cycle into new jobs in their home countries. They argue that the L-1 visa, allowing for intra-company transfers, is being similarly abused.
U.S. government data reveal that in the past several years, the list of top 10 companies receiving both H-1B and L-1 visas has been dominated not by U.S. tech firms such as Microsoft and Google, but instead by Indian outsourcing firms. For the past two years Wipro and Infosys have been the top two recipients of the visas. Indian outsourcers accounted for nearly 80% of the visa petitions (BusinessWeek.com, 3/6/08) approved last year for the top 10 recipients. ...
Durbin and Grassley argue the H-1B program must be reformed before it is expanded. As an alternative to raising the cap, Durbin and Grassley are advocating S.1035, or the H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, introduced in 2007. The bill would reform the H-1B and L-1 visa programs by requiring that all employers seeking to hire an H-1B visa holder prove they have made an effort to first hire a U.S. worker. "The H-1B program can't be allowed to become a job-killer in America," said Durbin in a statement. "We need to ensure that firms are not misusing these visas, causing American workers to be unfairly deprived of good high-skill jobs here at home."
"The focus is on being a good place to work," Hansen said, noting a company needs to take the best care of its people that it can and also deliver to the clients what they expect. ...
Consultant Dan Stahl agreed with the Wisconsin Fortune companies when it comes to the importance of a pervasive, if sometimes elusive, climate of respect. "How the organization treats people and respects them ... that's what I think differentiates the best organization from those who are aspiring," said Stahl, president of the consulting and recruiting firm Human Resources Group Inc. "I think the challenge is finding ways to help individuals fulfill their expectations while fulfilling the organization's goals." "It seems like such a simple formula," he said. "(But) it is tough for companies to get it right." To Hansen, just participating in the Fortune survey was a reward. The format prompted management to address questions that were strategic, long term and open-ended. ...
Fortune partners with Great Place to Work Institute to conduct the most extensive employee survey in corporate America. Of some 1,500 firms that were contacted, 407 companies participated in this year's survey. Nearly 100,000 employees at those companies responded to a 57-question survey created by the Great Place to Work Institute, a global research and consulting firm with offices in 30 countries. Most of the company's score (two-thirds) is based on the results of the survey.
The other third of the scoring is based on the company's responses to the Institute's Culture Audit, which includes detailed questions about demographic makeup, and pay and benefit programs, as well as a series of open-ended questions about the company's management philosophy, methods of internal communications, opportunities, compensation practices, and diversity efforts, etc.
Editor's note: Although at one time IBM was at or near the top of Fortune's Top 100 Best Companies To Work For list, it has been completely absent from the list in recent memory. Note that the Fortune list is based two-thirds on employee surveys, and one third on employer input. In contrast, Working Mother magazine's Top 100 Companies list, which is often touted by IBM in both external and internal communications, is based entirely on an employer survey. In other words, the Working Mother list is based on what companies say their policies are; Fortune's list is based on how companies actually behave, and how their behavior affects employee opinions of the companies.
A new study from The Corporate Library finds that the most common form of perk being granted to CEOs these days is something called a tax "gross-up." In plain English, it means that a company pays the taxes owed by the CEO on benefits granted by the company. ...
Almost any perk granted to a CEO generates a tax bill, from an executive life insurance policy paid by the company to country club dues. But one of the most common reasons cited by the report for tax "gross-ups" is use of the corporate jet. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, for security reasons, the boards of many companies have encouraged their CEOs to fly on private jets rather than commercial airlines when traveling on business. Public companies often allow the CEOs to use the corporate jet for personal travel as well. Personal use of the company plane is a form of compensation to the executive, so it generates a tax liability. But rather than making the CEO pay tax on that benefit, dozens of companies in the Russell 3000 pick up the tax bill.
...if financial players like Bear are going to receive the kind of rescue previously limited to deposit-taking banks, the implication seems obvious: they should be regulated like banks, too.
The Bush administration, however, has spent the last seven years trying to do away with government oversight of the financial industry. In fact, the new plan was originally conceived of as “promoting a competitive financial services sector leading the world and supporting continued economic innovation.” That’s banker-speak for getting rid of regulations that annoy big financial operators. ...
Thus, in a draft of a speech to be delivered on Monday, Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, declares, “I do not believe it is fair or accurate to blame our regulatory structure for the current turmoil.” And sure enough, according to the executive summary of the new administration plan, regulation will be limited to institutions that receive explicit federal guarantees — that is, institutions that are already regulated, and have not been the source of today’s problems. As for the rest, it blithely declares that “market discipline is the most effective tool to limit systemic risk.”
The administration, then, has learned nothing from the current crisis. Yet it needs, as a political matter, to pretend to be doing something. So the Treasury has, with great fanfare, announced — you know what’s coming — its support for a rearrangement of the boxes on the org chart. OCC, OTS, and CFTC are out; PFRA and CBRA are in. Whatever. ...
For example, there was a 2003 photo-op in which officials from multiple agencies used pruning shears and chainsaws to chop up stacks of banking regulations. The occasion symbolized the shared determination of Bush appointees to suspend adult supervision just as the financial industry was starting to run wild. Oh, and the Bush administration actively blocked state governments when they tried to protect families against predatory lending.
A majority of nearly every demographic and political group — Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school — say the United States is headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said the country was worse off than five years ago; just 4 percent said it was better off.
The poll found that Americans blame government officials for the crisis more than banks or home buyers and other borrowers. Forty percent of respondents said regulators were mostly to blame, while 28 percent named lenders and 14 percent named borrowers. In assessing possible responses to the mortgage crisis, Americans displayed a populist streak, favoring help for individuals but not for financial institutions. A clear majority said they did not want the government to lend a hand to banks, even if the measures would help limit the depth of a recession.
Comment: By Don McCanne, MD. Full excerpt: The hospitals are not the villains here. By introducing high-deductible plans, the private insurers have relieved themselves of the responsibility of paying for the initial costs of the medical and surgical procedures and services. In so doing, they have placed the burden of obtaining payment of the upfront charges onto the hospitals and health care professionals. Since large medical bills are more difficult to collect after the services have been provided, it is only natural that the hospitals would request payment in advance.
High-deductible plans are a solution that serves the interests of the insurers. Not only are they relieved from paying bills below the deductible, they are also able to sell these plans at premiums that many employers can still afford. In contrast, high-deductible plans do not serve the interests of most patients. Innumerable studies have now demonstrated that financial barriers impair access to appropriate health care which, in turn, impairs health outcomes. Placing the hospital in the role of the toll-keeper will undoubtedly cause many patients to walk away from the care they should have (if they can walk).
Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a system in which the Admissions Office of the hospital existed solely for the purpose of assisting the patient who is being admitted? Other countries do that. But not us. We continue to accept the toll-keeper role because it enables the private insurers to thrive. But isn’t it time for us to adopt policies that are designed instead to make patients thrive?
Countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, with national health care systems that don’t limit access to any services, have long ago moved toward merging these two branches of health care, and the Scandinavian countries are known for treating mental illnesses as medical diseases, according to researchers who have studied the various systems.
In the United States over the last five years, research studies examining the link between physical brain abnormalities and disorders like severe depression and schizophrenia have begun to make a strong case that the disorders are not scary tales of minds gone mad but manifestations of actual, and often fatal, problems in brain circuitry. These disorders affect behavior and mood, and they look different from Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis in brain imaging. Still, a growing number of studies — and many more are under way — are making the biological connection, redefining the concept of mental illness as brain illness.
“Insurance companies balk at this, but there are striking similarities between mental and physical diseases,” said George Graham, the A.C. Reid professor of philosophy at Wake Forest University. “There is suffering, there is a lacking of skills, a quality of life tragically reduced, the need for help. You have to develop a conception of mental health that focuses on the similarities, respects the differences but does not allow the differences to produce radically disparate and inequitable forms of treatment.”
Petit also points out that the bottom-ranked states generally have a narrower view of the role of government in addressing social issues, and have much lower tax burdens than those states at the top of the lists. Every Child Matters says it's highlighting the findings in part to build a case for "new investments in health, education, and social programs" aimed at kids wherever they live.
The divide between states at the top and bottom of the rankings is stark by many measures. A child in South Dakota is 3.5 times more likely to die by age 14 than a child in Rhode Island, and women in New Mexico are more than 5 times as likely to receive inadequate prenatal care as women in Rhode Island or Vermont. Children in Oklahoma are 13 times more likely to die from abuse or neglect as those in Maine, and the teenage birth rate in Texas is 3.5 times that of New Hampshire. Two of the states farthest from each other are also opposites when it comes to teenage death: Alaska's teen death rate is 2.5 times higher than that of Hawaii.
The top 10 ranked states in the study, starting with No. 1, are Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Washington, and Maine. The worst 10, starting at the bottom, are Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, South Carolina, Arkansas, Nevada, South Dakota, and Arizona. For more on the report, go to www.everychildmatters.org. And for a closer look at the highest- and lowest-ranked states, see BusinessWeek.com's slide show.
The crux of McCain's healthcare plan is to end a tax break for employers who provide health insurance premiums now utilized by many workers. That would be replaced with a tax credit worth as much as $5,000 per family for the purchase of health insurance. McCain would also promote cost controls and competition among insurance companies. He has also joined with Democrats to support legislation that would allow the purchase of prescription drugs from Canada.
But McCain's plan has no guarantee that people could get insurance, and no requirement for people to do so. McCain believes his plan would make insurance more affordable, which would bring it within reach of many more families. But many critics say that failing to require insurance companies to provide coverage could leave millions of people without affordable medical care.
The McCain plan has come under attack from Democrats, who say it mostly benefits the wealthy and the healthy. "It's fine except for the poor and the sick," said Jonathan Gruber, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has worked on Democratic healthcare plans. ...
But even some pro-business voices have said McCain's plan falls short of helping enough people in need. Fortune magazine said earlier this month that McCain had the best health insurance plan, but then criticized his handling of people with preexisting conditions. "The problem with McCain's approach - and it is a huge problem - is that McCain ventures so far toward total laissez-faire liberty that he risks leaving the poor and sick behind," the magazine said. "Anyone with cancer, diabetes, or other preexisting conditions will see their premiums multiply, too." ...
McCain compared health insurance to buying a home, saying it was desirable but not required. "I think that one of our goals should be that every American own their own home," he said. "But I'm not going to mandate that every American own their home. If it's affordable and available, then it seems to be that it's a matter of choice amongst Americans."
It’s about time someone said that and, more generally, made the case that Mr. McCain’s approach to health care is based on voodoo economics — not the supply-side voodoo that claims that cutting taxes increases revenues (though Mr. McCain says that, too), but the equally foolish claim, refuted by all available evidence, that the magic of the marketplace can produce cheap health care for everyone.
As Mrs. Edwards pointed out, the McCain health plan would do nothing to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to those, like her and Mr. McCain, who have pre-existing medical conditions. The McCain campaign’s response was condescending and dismissive — a statement that Mrs. Edwards doesn’t understand the comprehensive nature of the senator’s approach, which would harness “the power of competition to produce greater coverage for Americans,” reducing costs so that even people with pre-existing conditions could afford care.
This is nonsense on multiple levels. For one thing, even if you buy the premise that competition would reduce health care costs, the idea that it could cut costs enough to make insurance affordable for Americans with a history of cancer or other major diseases is sheer fantasy.
Beyond that, there’s no reason to believe in these alleged cost reductions. Insurance companies do try to hold down “medical losses” — the industry’s term for what happens when an insurer actually ends up having to honor its promises by paying a client’s medical bills. But they don’t do this by promoting cost-effective medical care.
Instead, they hold down costs by only covering healthy people, screening out those who need coverage the most — which was exactly the point Mrs. Edwards was making. They also deny as many claims as possible, forcing doctors and hospitals to spend large sums fighting to get paid.
And the international evidence on health care costs is overwhelming: the United States has the most privatized system, with the most market competition — and it also has by far the highest health care costs in the world. Yet the McCain health plan — actually a set of bullet points on the campaign’s Web site — is entirely based on blind faith that competition among private insurers will solve all problems. ...
As I’ve mentioned in past columns, the Veterans Health Administration is one of the few clear American success stories in the struggle to contain health care costs. Since it was reformed during the Clinton years, the V.A. has used the fact that it’s an integrated system — a system that takes long-term responsibility for its clients’ health — to deliver an impressive combination of high-quality care and low costs. It has also taken the lead in the use of information technology, which has both saved money and reduced medical errors.
Sure enough, Mr. McCain wants to privatize and, in effect, dismantle the V.A. Naturally, this destructive agenda comes wrapped in the flag: “America’s veterans have fought for our freedom,” says the McCain Web site. “We should give them freedom to choose to carry their V.A. dollars to a provider that gives them the timely care at high quality and in the best location.”
The Alliance has been losing members due to retirement, job loss and employee financial difficulties. This web site receives an average of 40,000 visitors a month.
Tough economic times are obvious; however, we simply can not go on or take employee advocacy to higher levels if we don't build our dues paying membership. It is not just this web site: It is an office and an organization that is at stake. Our staff of 1 full time, 1 part time and volunteers/members are dedicated to building this organization; but it is up to YOU to see that we are able to keep the office open and the organization financially viable. We need to become financially independent--We can not continue to rely on being financed by non-IBM CWA members. IBM employees need to support their own organization!
Frankly if IBM employees do not see the value of this employee organization then the future of our work is in jeopardy.
Please consider joining the Alliance@IBM as a member for only $10 a month--the cost of a few Starbuck's coffees. Your dues and involvement help the Alliance with the following:
We also have the expense of keeping an office up and running: Rent, Office supplies, fax, phones internet access and mailings of organizing materials; such as newsletters, flyers and brochures.
We believe Alliance@IBM has, by its very existence; given IBM Corporate Mgmt pause, during their anti-employee actions.
The bottom line is that if we are NOT here, then IBM Corporate Management has the field. There will be some who say that employees do not want representation through an employee organization or a union. Now is the time: Prove them wrong or prove them right.
Older employees on average make more money and have some of the higher cost benefits vs. younger employees, so they target those folks first. You can't lay off every old-timer, so mgmt plays games and adds some of the younger workers to the mix. (Just so it looks good to the government).
The 2nd and 1st line mgrs are the ones who have to make the decisions on who gets the boot. Usually, the first line mgr doesn't have any more to say than which employee he has to let go, but the 2nd lines have to approve it, so if the 1st line wants to save someone, and the 2nd line mgr doesn't agree. the 2nd line has the last say. -miss understanding-
Apparently, the large customers are very happy with what IBM is doing because IBM is throwing in some incentives that are just too good to pass up. So there will be rolling layoffs across IGS for the remainder of the year. Folks with cookie cutter type skills (and remember..IBM uses this term a lot differently than YOU do). such as Websphere, MQSeries, DB2, S/A AIX, NT, Solaris, Linux skills... You folks better learn something real quick because those are a few of the skills that are being targeted. -tai mai shue-
Working in the "GIE" means that "Pradip" is your Sys Admin in India, and "Guermo" as the Storage Management guy in Brazil. English is a second language to both of them, so while on the conference bridge speaking to each other in English, neither can understand what the other said! Of course, Ken, the end user in Maryland, who never understood technobabble when it was we Americans trying to explain why the system went down, is now very upset and concerned!! Since nobody wants to embarrass anybody, we all say nothing after Pradip or Guermo has finished speaking and we pretend we understood what they said!!
There's a long pregnant pause and finally somebody says something, and the conversation gets switched to another topic entirely!! During the call, SameTime's light up on my T-Pad like crazy, but I just exit out of ST altogether and don't respond to any of them! So that's a little taste of what it's like to work in the "GIE". Do YOU think it's going to work?? I don't! -Da Catboid-
Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. Some sample posts follow:
The suspension is already lifted, but the mystery still remains if the suspension was a valid one. If so, this will affect the pig profoundly since they will now have to portray themselves, as we always knew, to be not exactly pure and clean from now on. If the suspension was valid, they'll always have to put a check in that little check box and then explain it in detail on every RFP from now until hell freezes over. I'm not optimistic in a Bush administration this will happen, but if it was flagrant enough a violation they won't be able to hide it.
BTW, You weren't the only one in your perplexing amusement. Advertising can buy a lot of things, including the elimination of fair and balanced access to the truth.
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