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Highlights—December 8, 2012

  • Wall Street Journal: Benefits Leader Reins In 401(k)s. By Kelly Greene. Excerpts: International Business Machines Corp., bellwether for employee benefits, is overhauling its retirement program to contribute once a year to employee 401(k) accounts in a lump-sum payment.

    Starting next year, IBM's contributions, which generally range from 6% to 10% of pay, will take place Dec. 31. Workers who leave the company before Dec. 15 won't qualify for the match, unless they retire. ...

    For IBM, the latest move could help save millions of dollars a year in compensation expenses, and keep valued workers who want to ensure they receive the match more tethered to their jobs—at least until the end of a given year. ...

    Financial planners say the lump-sum contributions undermine one big advantage of 401(k) plans: "dollar-cost averaging," in which investors are buying stock and bonds at multiple prices over time, leveling out risk and return.

    It is a particular concern for older workers who are closer to retirement and have less time to make up for short-term losses, said Jason Chepenik, a certified financial planner and retirement-plan consultant in Winter Park, Fla.

    Some IBM employees are unhappy.

    "It's a huge change," said Andy Maher, a 59-year-old IBM customer engineer in Victorville, Calif. Mr. Maher, who started at the company in 1976, was an early adopter in the company's retirement offerings, eventually increasing his savings to 12% of pretax pay while raising five children.

    Now, he said, he is concerned that "you lose a whole year's worth of interest on that money. And if they lay you off Dec. 1, you don't get anything. It adds a whole other level of unnecessary uncertainty." ...

    Ms. Madrian added that Labor Department and U.S. Treasury officials "could be very interested in [IBM's move] and if they're concerned about it, they could say, 'You can't do that.' "

    She said the agencies could devise rules precluding IBM and other companies from depriving employees who leave before a set date of their matching contributions.

    For now, the risk for employees in 401(k) plans is that other companies will follow IBM's lead. ...

    When companies are looking for ways to cut the cost of their benefits, shifting to an annual match is often an idea that consultants suggest, though it is "unusual for a company to make this move," Ms. Borland said.

    Note: If you are unable to read the full article on the Wall Street Journal site, see this post on the Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board.

  • WRAL-TV (Raleigh): IBM changes 401(k) contribution plan; some workers revolt. By Rick Smith. Excerpts: Just in time for Christmas, IBM is making a big change in its 401(k) plan, and the decision that was disclosed in an email sent to employees on Wednesday immediately ignited a firestorm of criticism on a comments section at the website run by the union seeking to represent IBM workers.

    IBM announces that it will no longer make 401(k) contributions to employees once a year rather than on a semi-monthly basis starting in 2013.

    Plus, employees must be employed by Dec. 15 of each year in order to receive the company's match. ...

    Still, the moves angered IBM some employees, and Alliance@IBM said it wants the decision reversed. "We are calling on IBM to reverse this decision," Lee Conrad, the national coordinator for the union, told WRAL News. "It hurts employees and their families who might be faced with an RA [resource action, IBM's term for layoffs] during the year. "As we all know IBM continues to fire workers through the year and this just takes more money out of their pocket."

  • CNBC: Terrible Deal for Workers (video). Full transcript: ibm drawing fire over its plan to overhaul its 401(k) program. the wall street journal says ibm now plans to contribute a lump sum once a year payment, end of the year, to employee accounts instead of making those contributions twice a month. if other companies follow suit it could have huge implications for investors. joining me now to discuss this, bob pisani and john carney of cnbc. gentlemen, welcome. bob, i get how this is not helpful to workers. you lose the benefits of any dollar cost averaging. you may be ending up getting a lump sum at the end of the year. and if you leave the company before the end of the year, you don't get anything. but what's the refit to ibm? they save on administrative and accounting and they may have even conduct studies that indicate they'll actually save by make being the lump sum payment because you don't have to put it in certain times of the year and there may be overall cost savings for them. i don't think this is good news for employees at all. it's not just the loss of dollar cost averaging. i think that people may end up putting in less to their account and that's the overall issue. i guess savings might accrue from a fact if a worker leaves in July, ibm will have put nothing in for their worker or September or October or whenever. you got to be there into late December to get something so there are some savings there, but beyond that i don't get it. i bet what they're doing here is investing part of this money during the year and so they're taking the money that you would be earning if you were paid throughout the year and being a crewing it to themselves. i think it is a terrible deal for workers. what it really does is it puts you at risk for your company. if you get laid off or let's say you worked for Lehman brothers and you had one of these plans, you would actually not get paid at all because they went bankrupt in September you're taking the credit risk. i think there is a broader legal issue. if i leave in September and can't collect that money that's due, that payment, that's money i have earned. the company has promised me. i think there is a legitimate legal question around this. and it does weird things to the market because all of a sudden instead of money coming in throughout the year, you're getting a giant influx of money that has to be invested in some way all at once. it's very strange. bob, ibm is just one company, albeit a large one. but if other companies went along with this and made a year-end deposit into accounts, what kind of liquidity boom would you see at the end of the year for stocks? you might see some kind of liquidity boom, yeah, i would agree with that. but let me tell you something -- they're a market leader in this area. ibm led the way a few years ago when they eliminated the pensions for new employees. now a lot of companies routinely don't do it. look at the assault on retirees savings efforts. they're not doing a pension anymore. pensions are under assault. social security's going to be cut back. now 401(k)s are getting -- they're finding ways to squeeze that. this is a real problem for people saving for retirement. the world is a different place these days. john, bob, thank you. we'll see you later on the power
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: "terrible deal for workers" CNBC video" by "donnadmadonna". Full excerpt: I posted this to the "Women at IBM" Facebook page. I also wrote my Congresswoman, Both Senators and President Obama. I also wrote a "Confidentially Speaking" and my Manager. I will probably get another '3' rating and be laid-off / RA'ed soon.
  • Business Insider: IBM Is Changing The Terms Of Its Retirement Plan, Which Is Frustrating Some Employees. By Julie Bort. Excerpts: Specifically, employees are upset that IBM has enacted a new rule before it contributes its matched contributions this year. An employee must be employed on Dec. 15 in order to get the matching contribution. The only exception is for employees who retire. These employees will still get their match, calculated to their last day on the job.

    Employees who are laid off won't get matching contributions. If IBM lays off a worker prior to Dec. 15, IBM will not match the 401(k) contribution at all, spokesperson Doug Shelton told WRALTechwire.

    IBM has promised investors it will deliver earnings per share of $20 by 2015, according to its Roadmap 2015 plan. And it's fine that the company has a bold goal to make money. But some employees feel that the cost cuts IBM is making to help achieve this earnings growth have fallen most heavily on long-term workers, the people who have built a lot of value for IBM and its shareholders.

    IBMers also say the company has been reducing their pay in other ways. For instance, this summer, employees in IBM's North American Global Technology Services were told not to expect pay raises in 2012. Some IBM salespeople have complained that the company finds ways to not pay them their commissions. ...

    Employees say that IBM has been reducing its North American workforce and replacing them with lower-cost workers overseas. While these employees recognize the need for IBM to keep its costs competitive with rivals, they question whether the replacement workers can do the job as well and whether this is the smartest way for the company to meet targets. ...

    IBM stopped reporting its workforce numbers in 2010, but a recent report by Computerworld showed that IBM has more employees in India than it does in North America today: 92,000 workers in the U.S. and Canada compared to 112,000 workers in India. That's a big shift in just the past three years.

    We contacted IBM and IBM declined comment.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "401 (K) letter" posted by Lee Conrad. Full excerpt: Beginning January 1, 2013, IBM is changing the timing of the IBM match and automatic contribution for our 401(k) Plus Plan and Excess 401(k) Plus Plan from semi-monthly to an annual contribution at the end of the year. The percentage of the IBM match and automatic contribution you receive – which makes IBM's 401(k) plans among the best in the industry – is not changing.

    You must be employed on December 15 of each year to receive your IBM contribution for that year. For eligible IBMers, the IBM match and automatic contribution will be deposited to your account on December 31, 2013 (and on the last business day of each subsequent year). Your personal contributions are not affected by these changes. IBMers who retire at any time, including those participating in the Transition to Retirement program, will receive their match and automatic contribution upon retirement, based on the eligible pay received during that calendar year.

    Sincerely, Randy MacDonald

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: 401 (K) letter" by Sam Kay. Full excerpt: Interesting approach. Sounds like a good business strategy where the company can get the interest on these dollars . How does the negatively impact the employee? Will the contribution be the same but only done at year end or will the contribution be less than what they had received in 2012?
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: 401 (K) letter" by Lee Conrad. Full excerpt: Sounds like a good business strategy?? You do realize IBM fires thousands every year and all those cut before Dec 15 lose money.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: 401 (K) letter" by "ambassadoralvin". Full excerpt: I doubt interest, with rates at rock bottom, has much to do with it. I suspect the business strategy is to marginally improve earnings in the first three quarters by lumping the payout into the fourth quarter. I wonder if another shoe will drop if they have trouble meeting earnings expectations in the fourth quarter.
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM now making their 401k contribution once a year on Dec. 15th?" by "mikeinine". Full excerpt: In addition, you are not leveraging your invested dollars during the year. IBM is holding those funds and reaping the interest/gains. This is a definite negative to those promised matching funds to make up for some of the $$ taken down when the pension was frozen!
  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM now making their 401k contribution once a year on Dec. 15th?" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: Of course any interest or appreciation in value on that money for the year is also lost. The loss is highest for the money that would have been contributed early in the year. But yanking the money out from under someone after they earned it, because they were fired or quit, is almost laughably evil. You don't lose the money if you are retirement eligible. I'm not sure about pre-retirement LOAs if the LOA doesn't end until sometime in 2014.

    If this is also implemented in the 3rd world, it can be used as a short-term retention tool... but the real goal is theft of earned income from fired people. They could also use this as a sweetener for any future "transition to retirement" programs.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM now making their 401k contribution once a year on Dec. 15th?" by "dogbreath127k". Full excerpt: I forgot the best one: Pure Management Evil.

    If I knew 25 years ago what I know about IBM today I would have never applied for a position with this company.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM now making their 401k contribution once a year on Dec. 15th?" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: Right, effectively this is TWO changes. The first change affects everyone: You lose whatever appreciation (if any) of your IBM 401K Match and Automatic contribution for that year, and the result of any compounding, and presumably, any dividends paid by stocks inside funds. That's one change and bad enough.

    But the truly evil, miserly, inhumane change is firing someone and then taking away whatever 401K match they had already earned for that year. That could be substantial money. So while being stripped of your job, your 401K match is also ripped right out of your pocket. Even those who retire during the year still lose the appreciation.

    Their only consolation is they eventually get that 401K match, because they did what IBM hopes every well-paid 1st world employee will do: Retire or die, or preferably both. And if you die, please wait until you are home, and don't do it on company business.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM now making their 401k contribution once a year on Dec. 15th?" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: So IBM still is touting their 401(k)+ plan as the pension plan replacement for retirement savings?

    The 401(k) was originally developed so executives can tax defer millions for their supplement retirement planning. You think ANY executive would buy into the changes if ti affected them this way that Randy the evil HR director just announced to the troops???

    Hey Randy how is this 401(k) change still a 401(k) PLUS plan when employees can LOSE invested money gains?

    So now effective next year the IBM plan is officially a 301(k)- plan: They accrue the interest you are investing in with your contribution and then they decide if you are worth on 12/15 to receive it.

    Next to go will be the IBM matching funds. Trust me. I've been around for quite awhile being the dinosaur I am.

    How much is it gonna take for employees to unionize and get a contract to protect the thievery that is prevalent in this IBM?

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM now making their 401k contribution once a year on Dec. 15th?" by Paul Sutera. Full excerpt: A Union has been needed for a long time. IBM loses the best and the brightest and it seems all around me, the median age of my fellow US IBMers is over-50 years old now. Meanwhile our 3rd world replacements tend not to stick around for long enough to innovate. I've spoken to IBM India folks who confirm that the best and brightest - do not stay at IBM. I'll go one step further and say that only a band of concerned, motivated employees can save IBM from itself. Call it a union, call it an employees union.

    IBM is becoming a giant rotting carcass of a company. I've heard from Citigroup employees and they echo the same concerns...that they work for a badly mismanaged company whose many bad decisions were the result of extreme greed. 4th quarter is going to be interesting!

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM now making their 401k contribution once a year on Dec. 15th?" by "k0ibm". Full excerpt: I am a current IBM employee that contributes to the 401K Plus plan and receive the 6% match and a 2% transition credit. I did some calculations to see just what the impact of this change will be to me. As I read it the total contribution to my 401K Plus plan does not change (unless I get fired) just the timing. Based on Time value of Money calculations and the YTD rate of return on the Target Date Funds I contribute to (2020, 2025, 2030, 2035) this change will result in a $1,555 loss compared to the current process.

    With 9 years to 65 that comes to a total of $ 13,995 or in other words I will need to work and contribute for at least 6 more months to retire with the same cash balance. I guess the only positive here is that if the market is losing money you could be a winner because you would not suffer a loss on the IBM match, but if that is the case we all have much bigger issues.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "Re: IBM now making their 401k contribution once a year on Dec. 15th?" by "trexibmer". Full excerpt: "Hey Randy how is this 401(k) change still a 401(k) PLUS plan when employees can LOSE invested money gains?"

    Randy can counter and say employees can always LOSE invested money gains at any time by the volatility of a 401(k). That's true. But even a certified dummy knows that. But IBM employees who contribute who don't receive the matching grants twice a month can lose more since they have less money in the balance of their 401(k) through the year if their investment choice selections gain value given ways that IBM can calculate the balance with the matching grants (Or should I say IBM 401(k0 matching GRANT since it done on 12/15/13?).

    So how is IBM going to calculate with the 12/15 match and automatic contribution all the accruals to a 401(k) since 1/1/2013?

    Will they continue to calculate like it is now, do the hold back until 12/15, and then give you your 401(k) balance as if the matching contributions were done twice a month in your last yearly paycheck? What I'm saying is will employees see the now potentially notional 401(k)account 2013 balance (with the notional matching funds) twice a month on their pay stubs? Or will they do a quarterly calculation? Or a calculation as of 12/15/13 and then just add in the matching and automatic 401(k) contribution to the 401(k) balance? Or just do another change in 2013 and abolish the matching grant(s)?

    This 401(k) change is as rash and as ill thought out as the 1999 pension change. The uproar and action taken against it should be the same.

    Don't believe anything else this HR director says to try to smooth this change over! He is a master of delivering FUD to his underlings. Just ask anyone who worked in GTE when he was their HR guy.

    It is clear any benefit change in IBM will hurt the employee in some way. It is also clear benefits as we know them in IBM are slowly becoming extinct as much as my dino friends have become.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: IBM changes 401K payments - another hit to employees." by "dogbreath127k". Full excerpt: They obviously don't want to attract new hires in the USA or keep existing USA employees. Perhaps part of the race downhill to roadkill 2015?
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: IBM changes 401K payments - another hit to employees." by "nowwicked". Full excerpt: That is what I am guessing. The US headcount is still too high and instead of paying people to leave this is much cheaper. You got to admit, the prior moves have been working and this will simply continue the rush to the door. In many of our locations we have bounties out on finding qualified talent, up to 5K for a new hire. However you will find that the "jobs are frozen" and those that are open, few will take.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: IBM changes 401K payments - another hit to employees." by "patrickmurphy535". Full excerpt: I agree with nowicked. This type of behavior toward employees is not specific to IBM; it is pervasive. The research material around modern issues in the work force continues to grow and reflects a consistent attack on the labor force that seemed to gain exponential momentum in 2001.

    This latest move by IBM to devalue the 401K benefit is particularly discouraging for me. It comes at the end of a year during which I witnessed morale decline to levels I have not seen during my career, which includes four companies.

    The problem for me is that I actually enjoy my work; it's challenging and interesting, and now for the first time in a decade I am considering moving on, mostly because I somehow feel obligated to do so.

    Nowicked's observation about the US headcount may be a contributing factor but I cannot believe it is the only explanation for this type of behavior. I am puzzled.

    BTW – nowicked, what do you mean by "road-kill 2015". I tend not to pay attention to my environment and I am typically the last to know about these things…not because I'm stupid; it's just that I generally don't care.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: IBM changes 401K payments - another hit to employees." by "nowwicked". Full excerpt: The roadmap to 2015 (sorry if I put in roadkill) is a plan on w3 that has been out for a few years now. It states IBM's goals and directions to reach 2015. Many have characterized this plan as the death of all 1st country economy employees. The US being one of the largest, the rumor if you follow the zealots on the union sites is that IBM is heading to less than 10,000 employees in the US.

    Now reducing 1st world head count is nothing new, it isn't particularly IBM related, it is a simple concept that water under the affect of gravity finds it's lowest point. 1st world countries being around 15% of the population, maybe less (the US being 6%) is competing with the other 85% for jobs. In all of these other countries humans are cheaper to hire. So the employment goes to "fill" that area so to speak.

    My personal take is that if your job can be done without being in front of a customer on a regular basis it is ripe for movement to anywhere but the US and Europe. Again, nothing new.

    Although IBM and any management would deny the next topic I personally believe it is part of the unspoken plan. By holding down wages, bonuses, raises, reducing benefits and generally making the work environment miserable, IBM not only saves money but they get people to walk out without paying them any type of severance package. I believe this is short sighted and poor judgement but then again I don't run a multibillion dollar company with 400,000 employees. It isn't my money so I can't tell them how to spend it.

    Like you I evaluate my status, my pay, benefits regularly and make plans for leaving. When the tipping point is reached, I'll say goodbye to IBM and hello to someone else. As you indicated, morale is low, I believe especially so in services due to many factors that I believe border on abuse. Hope this was helpful.

  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: IBM changes 401K payments - another hit to employees." by Jim Yates. Full excerpt: I assume depending on how many more stock options they need, that there will be extra major layoffs before Dec 15th starting next each year. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Talk to WSJ?" by Kathi Cooper. Full excerpt: Forwarded from Lee Conrad, National Coordinator, Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701: If anyone wishes to talk to a Wall Street journal reporter about the change to the payout time on the 401(k) please let Lee Conrad know today (thurs). Be sure to send your phone number. Thanks -- Lee Conrad, National Coordinator, Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701, www.allianceibm.org, International Coordinator, IBM Global Union Alliance.
  • Yahoo! IBM Pension and Retirement Issues message board: "Re: Benefits Leader Reins In 401k - WSJ" by "jimyce". Full excerpt: I assume the automatic contributions part refer to what is new "pension" system.. if that is the case they are making it look like they are giving away much more by including that. what ever money they saved by dumping the pension I am sure more than makes up for most or all of that auto contribution number.

    It's one thing if the company wasn't making money, but to continue to take away from us after years of record profits is what gets me...and it sure doesn't seem to affect those huge stock options.

    We were told earlier this year in these economic times we just cant give out any raises. The next thing we know Ginny takes 8 million in options first month on the job. I haven't checked much after that, but if she is anything like the last leader she is probably over 20 million by now. This idea might get her another 10 million...please adjust company savings accordingly.

    If the company was doing bad (I don't think that's far off the way things are being run right now) I could understand. It's almost as if the road map to 2015 is just to run the company out of business, reap the rewards they got while doing it and what do they care what happens to anyone else or the company.

    By the way if they go under or get rid of you before 2015 you won't get that big 1000 bucks in stock they gave everyone either :)

    I have been there 32 years now.. I still remember orientation and them going on and on about how great our benefits were. I just can't recall them saying before we signed on "Oh by the way we can take that away from you anytime we feel like it" nor did they say make sure to read the fine print in about your benefits booklet.

    Then when our salaries were not going up in the bad times in the 90's they said but look at your benefits you get!

    Now the answer to every question to management is just be lucky you have a job.

    I turned down 2 state jobs because of the benefits in IBM at that time. Oh if I only knew. My neighbor's state pension alone is more than my current salary. People out in the world might think we are over dramatizing things on this once a year payment thing, but after over 15 years of things being taken away it gets to you.

    I feel a lot worse for those that will be around longer than I plan to be. If they left things alone on the pension for people that had been there 20 years I would already be gone.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee News message board: "Re: Benefits Leader Reins In 401k - WSJ" by "hankharty". Full excerpt: <sarcasm on> Randy forgot to mention in his email that if an employee should unfortunately die before December 15th, they won't need the money anyway. The heirs don't deserve the matching funds because they didn't work for it. Please plan ahead and schedule your death between December 16th and January 1st if you wish to maximize your 401k matching contributions. <sarcasm off>
  • Philippine Daily Inquirer: IBM to expand BPO operations in PH. By Paolo G. Montecillo. Excerpts: S -based technology giant IBM Corp. will continue to expand in the country as part of plans to grow its high-value business process outsourcing (BPO) operations. ...

    This expansion will entail hefty investments and a significant increase in current headcount, officials said, but declined to give details. ...

    She said new jobs would be created in the company’s analytics outsourcing operations, high level customer support for the firm’s social business, and a new Philippine Systems & Technology lab being established in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology.

  • WRAL-TV (Raleigh): IBM work force in N.C., U.S. keeps dropping but grows in India. By Rick Smith. Excerpts: Where does IBM now employee more workers than anywhere else?

    India.

    Meanwhile, IBM's work force in North Carolina is now well below 10,000.

    And across the Triangle, where Big Blue employed more than 10,000 just a few years ago alone, the headcount has dropped to some 7,300.

    IBM won't talk about where it employees people geographically. So people trying to figure out what's up with job numbers have to rely on sources and the occasional document that might be leaked. ...

    IBM's headcount keeps dropping in N.C. and across the U.S. even as the ranks of Big Blue keep growing in India. According to Computer World, IBM has 112,000 workers across India. Meanwhile, the U.S. workforce is down to 92,000, says the union seeking to represent Big Blue employees.

  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • Extremely driven by efficiency and quarterly results” Current Executive Consultant in Ehningen (Germany). Pros: International environment, flexibility, broad range of jobs, flexible time management, strong client orientation, very flexible business model, permanent change. Cons: Globally integrated company with strong tendency to near-shore and off-shore currently the focus is more on the shareholder (-> quarterly results) than on the employee
    • Stayed too long. Much better work elsewhere.” Former Senior Software Engineer Manager in Austin, TX. Pros: IBM's salary and benefits relatively speaking are better than average despite the annual increases in employee contributions. IBM has well defined processes in the various parts of the business which enables employees young in their career to learn good skills. To those individuals new to IBM, stay long enough to obtain the experience the job offers, then move on as IBM isn't good for you long term.

      Cons: IBM has lost its shine. I am certain that Thomas Watson continues to turn in his grave as to what has happened to his company. IBM has long moved away from gaining new ideas and starting businesses from scratch to one of acquisitions. As products move through their life cycle, the work is outsourced to places like India where IBM can reduce its labor cost. The net affect is that the employees are discarded as the products they have built and supported are no longer generating the revenue they once were. New opportunities exist only in locations where companies that were acquired are located. Unless you have experience with the products from the companies acquired and are willing to relocate, your future at IBM is limited. IBM is a pro at reducing its labor through layoffs while minimizing the publicity of downsizing and outsourcing. Once you see the death spiral begin at your site (especially sites that have been around a long time), be proactive and find a new opportunity elsewhere. It may seem daunting at first, especially the longer you have stayed at IBM, but in the long run you will be better off (and much happier too).

      Advice to Senior Management: I have been at IBM long enough to have numerous middle managers. None of them do a decent job with people management and their technical skills degrade to a point where they are close to useless. Upper management should take a hard look at their middle managers and their contributions. On numerous occasions my employees rightly escalated their annual performance appraisals due to middle managers playing favorites. Nothing I could say/demonstrate would change the middle manager's view (despite the middle manager having little interaction with these individuals). It took an outside (of the organization) review to fix the situation. The middle manager remains at IBM while the majority of the 60+ person organization was laid off across 2 RIFs. This middle manager and his executive who also is still at IBM were unsuccessful in building/maintaining/re-missioning the team.

    • IBM is on a disturbing path. Offshoring most US jobs then using landed India resources to fill what little remains.” Current Senior IT Specialist in Costa Mesa, CA. Pros: Flexible work arrangements while they last. Potential to be great. Cons: Trend is to value internal cost over client service. Married to offshoring. Questionable legality of replacing US workers with landed India workers (roll-off project then layoff company). Top heavy. Advice to Senior Management: Pay much better attention to the word of those in the trenches. Right now, executives thru DPEs are hammering square pegs into round holes with regard to offshoring, then running away when it comes time to deliver to clients.
    • A great place to work if you drink the Kool-Aid and toe the line” Former IT Consultant. Pros: All of the good reasons to work for IBM have been done away with over the last 5 years. Cons: Managers don't stick up for their employees, decisions are based on what will make the stock price go up, rules for rules sake, seemingly unable to do the right thing. Example: Wall Street likes to see layoffs at big companies. IBM will take highly experienced consultants who are invaluable and well liked by their customer and bringing in upwards of $180/hour to IBM, and lay them off because they have to meet their layoff numbers to make the stock price go up. I saw it happen year I worked there, and this year it happened to me. And they are the global leader in off-shoring jobs. Advice to Senior Management: Try treating employees like they are members of your family.
    • Decent company undergoing transitions to be a better one” Current Senior Managing Consultant in New York, NY. Pros: Job autonomy is probably the best part of this job. Pay is adequate and work/life balance is probably the best in the industry. Cons: Many of the projects are not really "strategy" and more based around implementation. If you want real strategy consulting go to BCG or McKinsey.
    • IBM is drifting off to the wrong shore” Former Business Operations Analyst in Dublin, Dublin (Ireland). Pros: Big organization, good to get experience and build a career. Cons: Does not value employee efforts. Advice to Senior Management: Reward employees more economically
    • The first 10 years excellent, but last 2...not so much.” Current Employee. Pros: Variety of roles, many opportunities to work with talented people, interesting technologies, amazing research centers, many employees who want to help each other, global enterprise with amazing niche job opportunities.

      Cons: Some areas, depending on the executive/department, are still in the 1950s management style ruled by fear (this is limited more to the Headquarters area and not general business/regional/country areas), the constant loss of experience in the name of "cost savings" which ultimately costs more while new people "learn what others knew in their sleep", the recent changes to 401k (we only match your payments once a year in December as opposed to the previous every payday) and the never-ending cost cutting and expectation of staff to work longer hours, do more whilst cutting staff and now fund basic work expenses themselves has diminished the general level of employee satisfaction.

      Advice to Senior Management: If your employees are largely unhappy in vast numbers (time for an employee satisfaction survey), and don't have time or inclination to help/praise/say thank you to their co-workers it won't be long before talented employees go elsewhere to positive, affirming places. Pay attention to the culture, it's disintegrating and ultimately, it does affect the company brand based on what people don't say to their family and friends that they used to positively rave about.

    • Fair management in the early years. Transitioned into inept management disrespectful and surly toward employees.” Former Global Marketing in New York, NY. Pros: Opportunities to do many different types of jobs. Cons: Moved too slowly to innovate due to sheer size of company. Decisions made by committee. Meetings had five times the number of IBMers needed to accomplish task.
  • Alliance for Retired Americans: Friday Alert. This week's articles include:
    • Alliance Member Dines with Vice President Biden
    • Fiscal Cliff Talks Continue as Republicans Put a Plan on the Table
    • Alliance joins AFGE, Other Groups in Protesting to Protect Social Security
    • AFSCME Retiree Director Steve Regenstreif to Retire; Ann Widger to be New Director
  • Institute for Policy Studies: A Pension Deficit Disorder: The Massive CEO Retirement Funds and Underfunded Worker Pensions at Firms Pushing Social Security Cuts. By Sarah Anderson and Scott Klinger. Excerpts: This report analyzes the retirement policies of the U.S. corporations leading the “Fix the Debt” campaign, which is calling for reduced spending on senior citizens’ benefits as part of a deal on the national debt.

    A major player in the national debt debate, the “Fix the Debt” campaign, is arguing that cuts to Social Security and Medicare are necessary to avoid economic disaster. Meanwhile, the corporations leading this campaign are contributing to Americans’ retirement insecurity by funneling enormous sums into their CEO retirement accounts while underfunding their employee pension funds.

    Key findings:

    • The 71 Fix the Debt CEOs who lead publicly held companies have amassed an average of $9 million in their company retirement funds. A dozen have more than $20 million in their accounts. If each of them converted their assets to an annuity when they turned 65, they would receive a monthly check for at least $110,000 for life.
    • The Fix the Debt CEO with the largest pension fund is Honeywell’s David Cote, a long-time advocate of Social Security cuts. His $78 million nest egg is enough to provide a $428,000 check every month after he turns 65.
    • Forty-one of the 71 companies offer employee pension funds. Of these, only two have sufficient assets in their funds to meet expected obligations. The rest have combined deficits of $103 billion, or about $2.5 billion on average. General Electric has the largest deficit in its worker pension fund, with $22 billion.
  • Life Health Pro: The early retirement headline you’re not seeing. By Cheryl Krueger. Excerpts: There are so many Boomer retirement headlines, it’s difficult to keep up. “Nation’s First Boomer Turns 65 on New Year’s Day”; “What Happens when Baby Boomers Retire”; and the less optimistic “Boomers Report No Savings at All”. As advisors, most of us work with Boomers, most notably as they face retirement challenges that many aren’t adequately prepared for.

    And we do see some headlines about early retirement – although not as many now as we did before the housing bubble burst. When I mention early retirement, the first thought is typically of those incredibly fortunate, well-prepared Boomers whose kids are out of college, who own their houses free and clear, and who will be able to afford pre-Medicare retirement plans. But we should be discussing another element of early retirement with all of our pre-retiree clients: an early retirement that may not be their choice.

    In its 2012 Retirement Confidence Survey, the Employment Benefit Research Institute (“EBRI”) finds that nearly “half of current retirees surveyed say they left the work force unexpectedly”. The prospect of an unplanned early retirement is real, and is happening more frequently since the US economic downturn. (This is consistent with results from prior surveys, where the percentage ranged from a low of 37% in 2007 to a high of 52% in 1991.) Advisors need to discuss with their clients the risk of early retirement as much as the desire for early retirement.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • Sign the petition at change.org: International Business Machines (IBM USA): IBM must REVERSE the decision changing the IBM match 401(k) contribution. Petition wording: IBM must REVERSE their recent decision to change the timing of the IBM match and automatic contribution for our 401(k) Plus Plan and Excess 401(k) Plus Plan.

    We, the petitioners want IBM to keep the automatic contribution at semi-monthly and NOT an annual contribution.

    IBM, by moving the automatic contribution from semi-monthly to an annual contribution effectively denies employees who are terminated in resource actions up to the cut off of December 15 of the given year, the matching contribution from IBM. Furthermore, the movement of the automatic contribution to the end of the year denies interest generated for the employees 401(K) account. Sign this petition to tell IBM to REVERSE this decision, immediately!

    And if you are an active IBM employee, please Join Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701.

    Web site: http://www.allianceibm.org; Twitter ID: @Allianceibm; Facebook: Allianceibm CWA

  • Job Cut Reports
    • Comment 12/04/12: I work in IBM Austin. It appears that IBM is planning to close down Portland, Oregon (I think real city is Beaverton; per bluepage of my colleagues in Portland office). The Portland facility houses around 800 employees. The word is that IBM has already leased some other facility, and people will move there in Q1 2013. At the new place the employees asked to time-share office space, work from home, cannot keep personal stuff in their cubes, no monitors allowed (only laptops; if you are a developer -- what do you do ?). But, the feeling is that the "move" is disguise to close down the facility and get rid of 800 or so employees. -BegBlewEmp-
    • Comment 12/04/12: @-BegBlewEmp- The move in Beaverton has to do with getting out of the old Sequent campus and moving back to the actual city of Portland, which would be more accessible to a larger employee base. The traffic along highway 26 and the lack of easy transit access makes the current campus pretty unfriendly... -Drone-
    • Comment 12/05/12: @Drone and @BegBlewEmp: The move from Beaverton is not back into Portland. It is further West into Hillsboro. This actually makes it MORE difficult, not less to get to from Portland on Hwy 26. It is further from the airport on the far side of Portland. So no, it's not a move back to the actual city of Portland. Its entirely the opposite direction. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 12/05/12: Announcement today regarding 401(k) contributions moving to a once yearly IBM contribution in 2013. Contribution to be on December 31 for that year, and you must still be employed at IBM on December 15 to received the contribution. While those who retire or elected to take the "Transition to Retirement" will get their match and pro-rated automatic contributions at the time of their retirement, IBM stands to pocket a significant amount for those that quit or get RA'd up to and including December 14. -Vested-
    • Comment 12/05/12: Just when you think things aren't going to get worse..they DO! I just got an e-mail stating they are changing the 401k plan. Next year, IBM holds back all their matching contributions until 12/15. If you are still here you get a lump sum put into your account. If you get RA-ed at any time during the year, you don't get ANY matching contribution. How much longer is it going to take to wake people up and organize. -dun-4-
    • Comment 12/05/12: hi-ho the theft continues. 401(k) matches will only occur ONCE a year only if the IBMer is employed on Dec. 15th... so just lay off folks before then... -Drone-
    • Comment 12/05/12: Another way for IBM to save money from going into employees' pockets was announced today by Randy MacDonald. The 401K Plus Plan matching contribution deposits are changing Jan 2013. Instead of being deposited semi-monthly it gets deposited at year end providing you are still employed on Dec 15th. This can be thousands of dollars saved per individual who gets RA'd before Dec 15th. Stockholders are surely laughing all the way to the bank over this one. -anonymous-
    • Comment 12/05/12: In its latest move to demoralize its employees, IBM just announced a change to how it will contribute pension amounts and matching contributions to 401K. IBM has decided it needs the cash more than employees and thus will hold onto it for the full calendar year keeping any gains for itself. IF you manage to stay employed through Dec 15, then you can have the contribution amount earned all year on the last business day of the year. But get let go on Dec 14 and IBM gets to keep it all. This time they didn't even try to sugar coat it as if it was something good for employees. -anonymous-
    • Comment 12/05/12: Instead of making money the old-fashioned way, by earning it, IBM is sinking to new lows to fund the EPS. Really? Taking money from your dedicated employees and their families? Even after all of the abuse we have suffered in the past few years. It should be VERY clear now, Folks. We have to organize. I am a member are you? The truth is, IBM cannot make the big money in selling services or hardware. Why? because the level of quality of both has gone in the trash since they care more about shareholders then about satisfied customers and happy employees. -Move-
    • Comment 12/05/12: About the change in 401k - wow. Smells like massive RAs are in store for next year. Good luck to those choosing to stay. -Glad-I-Left-
    • Comment 12/05/12: 401K....and the cuts will keeping on coming. When your company'S HR head testifies against the minimum wage before Congress in 2011 you should not expect anything else. -Joe-
    • Comment 12/05/12: 401(k) PLUS plan? Hey, where is the PLUS in this change Randy Mac? Call it just a 401(k) plan and remove the PLUS. And for those that get screwed before 12/14/13 say it is a 401(k) MINUS plan. Season's Beatings from IBM HR -dogbert-
    • Comment 12/05/12: Yes, looks like the brain trust has once again figured out how to screw the people who actually work for a living,. Disgusting.. Hopefully this will backfire on them.. BTW, how many of you receive correspondence from Ginni? Apparently she doesn't know how to communicate too well. What does she do besides scam $$ away from people who don't make much to begin with? At least Sam kept in touch.. Hoping to leave soon and work for a company that appreciates what I do for them.. goodbye Big Blew! -W-T-F?-
    • Comment 12/06/12: Has anyone else noticed that ESD/RSD CE/SSRs are leaving the company in force? I know of whole towns with no coverage. And I have been told that this is not limited to just one area. Also the techs are refusing to answer their phones on their off hours. Bad deal for IBM and its customers. There really is no reason to stick around these days with all they have taken from us. Retire or quit now. BTW...they cannot find people to replace them. -Hobo-
    • Comment 12/06/12: Al Capone would even appreciate this heist. Get 11 months work and contributions, which allows executives to make contributions BTW. Would IBM employ a true layoff to save the money? Shutdown all non essential jobs for 3 weeks to keep from paying and then have a recall after the first. No contract to force them to call laid off workers still employed. Win win win for the bottom line. Lose lose lose once again for the rank and file employees. Wake up people. -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 12/06/12: While the RA implications of this are interesting, I'm more ticked that, despite Uncle Randy's attempts to pawn this off as a wash (we're still getting the same match mumbo jumbo), this is a loss of benefit because we're now losing out on potential gains throughout the year. -at215-
    • Comment 12/06/12: OK, that's it. I'm joining the Union, this is the last straw and I've had enough. I don't have much left to lose. I have not received a raise in years and in spite of that:
      • Costs of just about everything I need to buy have gone up and net weights of groceries and services have gone down.
      • IBM has spun off the costs of their commercial rent, electric, water and sewage, heating and air conditioning costs to me. (WFH)
      • IBM has spun off the costs of their office phone, cell phone, and network connectivity costs to me. (WFH)
      • Awards have dried up altogether.
      • Profit sharing has dwindled steadily.
      • My contribution to medical insurance has increased steadily.
      • High performers all around me are routinely RA'ed and replaced with contractors and foreign workers.
      • PBC ratings are pre-determined, no longer have any basis in reality, and are used as a vehicle to replace good regulars with contractors and foreign workers.
      • My coworker contractor friends have had their hours cut. (No safety there either)
      • I can't even order a pencil for work. (Supposed to come out of my pocket too now?)
      • Now I can feasibly work for 11 months of the year and still not receive my 401K match.
      • (Please reply and let me know all the things I forgot or missed)

      And ALL THIS NOT because this company is in danger of bankruptcy, BUT because a handful of greedy executives want to buy that new yacht, personal jet, or vacation mansion and they don't care what they do to employees to get it. (Their compensation is already in the millions folks). Who is running this company now anyway, the Genovese crime family? The Colombo crime family? Actually, I think the Mafia looks at IBM with awe, admiration, and envy as they continue to come up with new ways to shaft their employees that they wouldn't have thought of even with THEIR degenerative morals. -Corrupt Planet-

    • Comment 12/06/12: This 401(k) change means you will lose any gains during the course of the year you might have gained otherwise. That could have a huge impact on retirement goals. Sounds like theft. Also, purchasing all stock at one time means you miss out on dollar cost averaging, not a smart business decision. This change could be viewed as a half-hearted attempt at eliminating 401(k) matches. When the pension plan was retired, this match was touted as being the compensation for losing the pension plan. Toying with it now just makes management show their true colors. You've heard of the iPad and the iPhone, well now you have been hit with the i(bm). -watching from afar-
    • Comment 12/06/12: Sounds eerily a bit like the Future Health Account (FHA) heist but on a smaller scale. In the FHA if you don't make 55 years old and at least 15 years of service you lose ALL the IBM contributions. This 401(k) change is similar in that you only lose up to a year in IBM contributions. -anonymous-
    • Comment 12/06/12: Look closely at your first 2013 paycheck. I bet IBM will not tell you the match or automatic contributions they are storing for you to get on 12/15/13. I bet you'll only see your 401(k)contribution. Much the same as they pulled ESTIMATR in 1999 so you couldn't figure out what you lose with the cash balance pension change. I had the old DOS pension estimator tool. So I know how IBM benefit changes (call it legalized corporate thievery) can work against the IBM employee. And a good reason I joined the Alliance. How 'bout you joining now too? -Remember-
    • Comment 12/06/12: IBM is now hitting your retirement? The big guys sit around the table and the question of the day is, what can we cut from them next? Is there anything else? Yes there is. They can still hit you with more pay cuts and not contribute to your 401 or pension at all. It's coming. Why? Because you all sit back and just take it. Organize and Unionize, or it will just continue until you are out the door. What are you all waiting for? -Gone_in_07-
    • Comment 12/06/12: IBM has cut so much that there is not much left. I was paying healthcare insurance premiums of $900/month for a family, and so cheap on the travel expenses went to San Francisco and had a $23 per diem. Just too funny. Which is why I quit IBM after 1 year. The latest 401k change really should make it impossible for IBM to get the top talent from now the word gets out fast! -ibm sux-
    • Comment 12/06/12: I hate to sound like a broken record, but if IBM Workers had a Labor Contract that was negotiated through Collective Bargaining, timely payment of 401(k) matching could be clearly articulated and mandated, and not left to the vagaries of a ganef like Randy! Everyone who is affected by this change should be mad as hell, and cry out that they're not going to take it anymore! Stand up for what's rightfully yours! Join the Alliance today - Just do it!!! -Elephant in the Room-
    • Comment 12/06/12: Every time I get an email from RMAC COMM it's bad news. -Still here-
    • Comment 12/06/12: I'm surprised that IBMers are surprised about the 401(k) change. I'm even more surprised that they think management can be shamed or persuaded to reconsider. Where on earth have you been working?? The IBM I once worked for would have no problems doing this, and -- absent a union contract -- no legal reasons not to. -irRational-
    • Comment 12/06/12: No coal. Daily abuse. Living in terror of unemployment and homelessness. Happy Christmas Scrooge Randy. -Bob Cratchit-
    • Comment 12/06/12: Heard more layoffs for the SWG group, and more for GTS as well ! Plus the 401k change wake up people you might want to stop this outright stealing of your benefits! -ibmjoe-
    • Comment 12/06/12: Even with all this 401k nonsense going on there are sill plenty of people I work with drinking the kool-aid and standing by IBM the GDF and all the FLM's. I hope those morons are the first to get RA'd. -johhny2times-
    • Comment 12/06/12: Today we had an IC1 all hands meeting. Someone asked about resource actions. They mentioned they had received multiple awards for their hard work, but they said they would prefer not to receive the awards if IBM would just stop the RA-s. Things are falling through the cracks, people are working very hard, there aren't enough people or enough hours in the day to get everything done. What was mgmts response?!?!...Basically Mgmt said we will continue to do what we have been doing. It's not going to stop. We want to give the shareholders good value. (Who cares about giving the customer good value). You will continue to have to do more with less. Oh, and btw, We are down 4% in revenue. The speeding train towards roadkill 2015 will not be stopped. It will just mean we will make up the difference with MORE resource actions. Thank you for the great job you have done for IBM this year. You've done such a great job, you'll have more work and more hours next year. After we've sucked the life out of you, we'll toss you away in one of the RAs. (oh, yeah, one more thing....don't expect a raise in 2013 because you will be rated a 3 for your next appraisal). -screwed-yet-again-

      Alliance Reply: I wonder what IBM management would have said if someone stood up in that "all-hands" meeting and said "What would happen if everyone here at this meeting joined Alliance@IBM, right now?"

    • Comment 12/06/12: @-Hobo- The CE/SSR's are leaving IBM to go work for EMC where they can pretty much double their salaries and only have to work on one product line, disk. Others are taking lucrative jobs with clients. And IBM doesn't give a hoot. They hire starry eyed college grads who work less than 5 years, leave and the cycle starts again. It's the beginning of the end for the field force. Clients are pissed as well and IBM doesn't care. Any SSR that has 10 years or less, get out now. Don't think it's going to get better because it won't. You will NEVER, DO YOU HEAR ME, NEVER, make the kind of money your 30+ year peers are making. -slinky- Alliance Reply: Why not organize the CE/SSR's and fight for a fair contract?
    • Comment 12/07/12: Is it acceptable for HR people at IBM to join the union? I have been anti-union all my life and have seen the excesses on the union side, but IBM has over reached and needs to be unionized. One further point - Ginni is using Randy to do her dirty work and do not fall for it when he "takes the fall" - she needs to be held accountable for these actions. -HR- Alliance reply: Yes you can join as long as you are not in management (hire and fire).
    • Comment 12/07/12: I am joining the Alliance today. After 5 years at IBM, I am certain that the company is more focused on shareholders than the employees. The latest 401K fiasco is the proof of it. I wish Alliance would publish the number of active US Employees who have joined the alliance right on this page so readers of this site know that how much support we need to Organize and inspire people by numbers. -Still Here-
    • Comment 12/07/12: Not to many years ago, at a mandatory All Hands Meeting, a segment of employees was informed by an Exec. that the intent of IBM was to shift the majority of the US employee base responsibilities off shore by 2015, and only provide a skeleton presence of US staff in the US. Since then this has played out. Benefits have been adjusted, raises have been few and far between, Variable Pay was renamed to a Bonus and only minimally awarded. RA's of all sizes have continued. Increased workload mandates within a limit of 40 hours worked. PBCs goals no longer specific to each employees actual job role, but rather the so called intent of an entire division. Employees being rated a 1 one year and without warning a 3 12 months later with no prior warning or valid evidence of lack of performance.

      US employees picking up the mess made by off shore personnel who can't even solve a problem without a predefined script. Face it, IBM now has a very small window to complete their march to 2015 so those still with IBM, hold on you're in for an even bumpier ride. I am usually neutral about Unions, but at this point, those left need to seriously consider organizing and bringing in the Alliance. If I recall the employees in Argentina Unionized so maybe it is time for those still at IBM US do the same thing -Ex-IBMer-

    • Comment 12/07/12: So let me get this straight. IBM eliminates the pension plan in 1999 and justified the change because future payment liabilities are skewed toward the employee's later years and "younger"employees demanded greater portability of their benefits. The result is a bargain payout of pension obligation that results on 40 cents on the dollar and a new 'enhanced' 401K plan that allows employees to take responsibility of their own future and increased benefit portability.

      "Among workers with retirement plans, the percentage covered by pensions fell from 83% to 30% from 1980 to 2006, according to CRR [Center for Retirement Research at Boston College]. Meanwhile, those in 401(k) plans, originally meant to be supplementary only, rose from 40% to 92%. The cost savings of the switch were big: IBM said at the time it expected to slash as much as $3 billion over five years from its worldwide retirement revamp? Source: IBM Reinvents the 401(k) by Amy Feldman on July 02, 2009.

      During the same time, high tech employers like IBM clamor and lobby the government about the lack of available high-tech workers asking the government for more H1B visas (IBM has filed 18876 H1B visa applications and 1481 green card applications since 2001, ranked 3 among all visa sponsors, with 4751 H1B visa applications in 2012), increased STEM education investments, while colluding with other employers not to 'poach' rival firm's employees keeping wages artificially low and while laying off thousands of employees.

      And corporate employers complain about high taxes. IBM paid an effective US Federal tax rate of 3.8% over last three years." (source: Study finds many corporations pay tax rate of effectively zero by Bernie Becker on May 31, 2011) and arguing that increasing taxes will kill job growth. Corporate taxes are 1.3% of GDP, the lowest in history. (source: Tax Policy Center - The Numbers: What are the federal government’s sources of revenue?). Record profits (and stagnant revenue growth).

      At the same time, these same companies (including IBM) continue to ask (no, demand) for increased government spending on R&D, STEM education, tax credits, while using government protection of intellectual capital and patents from other competitors and countries. One might ask, given these historically low federal taxes where is all of the "job growth"?

      Ironically, IBM's "Smarter Planet" showcases their uncanny insights into consumer behavior or even "Black Friday" sales and use as a poster child to convince governments (and others) to buy IBM services and offerings . Yet with all of these sophisticated "Smarter Planet" capabilities, IBM cannot (publicly) answer a seemingly simple question: 'what is IBM's US employee population?" ... not very compelling or insightful.

      So now with this new 'enhanced'401K plan, IBM has eliminated a major "portability" aspect of the 401K, eliminated the employee benefit of 'compounding' and "dollar cost averaging", skewed payouts to 4Q flooding ~ $875M into the stock market (a Wall Street bonanza), artificially depressing 4Q profits while "juicing up" the preceding 3 quarters by roughly $220M per quarter. Financial engineering at its best!

      Something stinks here, reminiscent of the IBM Moffat / Wall Street Galleon insider trading. Is it really a surprise that people are upset? Whether the anger is from the "TEA party" (Taxed Enough Already) about ever increasing government and paying more taxes (to offset corporate "handouts" amidst declining corporate federal tax revenue); or the anger from the 99% / 'Occupy' movement about how the game is rigged against the "the rest of us" in favor of big corporate interests - they are symptomatic of the same problem and represent different sides of the same coin.

      What if customers unilaterally changed their payment schedule to IBM pending the successful completion of the project - how would IBM react?

      And the timing of this latest 401K 'enhancement' during the US 'Fiscal Cliff' debate, ensures that this will get little media / public attention ... letting IBM, like a thief, slip silently into the night (again).

      I feel like I am coming down with a major case of the BLUE FLU ... question is what date should WE pick? -BLUE_BARF-

    • Comment 12/07/12: I signed the petition! I am an Alliance member. It cost me $10 per month. I think it is worth it. Please join, if you haven't already. There is no other voice out there for IBM Employees. -OustGinny-
    • Comment 12/07/12: This is yet another Christmas take away from IBM. Lets add them up: Pension gone, cash balance gone, employee stock ownership program gone, Variable pay gone for sellers(with promise to invest on stock options that never happened), Variable pay for non sellers decreased DRAMATICALLY, sellers used to be paid monthly, now get paid quarterly in arrears, healthcare contributions WAY down, home based workers now can't expense paper, pencils, folders, can't expense a printer, can't expense a telephone, can't expense internet service, virtually no raises to be had and every year they push the time for raises out a month or two, promotions only available for executives. WHEN DOES IT END???? The union should push to get these stories told on the news. -Anonymous-
    • Comment 12/07/12: IBM will release 40% of US staff before 2015. This 401K trick is a prereq. I'm sure the IBM lawyers have all the kinks worked out to keep the US government from meddling. But what if most of the US staff just leave? IBM dies in that scenario. From my experience, it's the Americans that are still leading almost all projects, mostly staffed by GRs. So let's just kill the golden goose.... yeah that makes sense. Watson must be rolling over in his grave. -USux Apparently-
    • Comment 12/07/12: This is the final nail in the coffin. I don't mean to sound melodramatic but dollar cost averaging is one of the key advantages to the current bimonthly employer and employee contribution structure. The 401k Plus plan was rolled out in 2008 because IBM wanted to save money, reduce the burden on the company to sustain the pension program, and put the burden on the employee to manage their retirement savings.

      When IBM rolled this out in 2008, the story was that this program was the replacement for the pension program. That's right, one of the largest IT companies in the world no longer provide pensions to their employees. This new policy raises several more questions: How will keeping the employer match help IBM? Will they invest it and earn the profit (or loss) on the money?

      If IBM files bankruptcy on December 14th in a future year, what happens to the employer contribution? Does it go to creditors or is the pro-rated amount given to employees?

      IBM constantly "refines" staffing levels and "skills" through the course of the year.

      A more apt way of saying this is that IBM lays off employees in favor of cheaper offshore labor, all at the detriment to the end clients IBM supports (cheaper means less skilled labor). IBM will only pay the employer contribution to the employee if they are an active employee as of December 15th. An employee could be laid off on December 14th and they would not be eligible to receive the employer match. This money would be retained by IBM.

      Would IBM use this information as selection criteria for the reductions?

      Why should IBM be permitted to keep the employer contribution?

      The Wall Street Journal points out in the Friday, December 7th article that IBM spent $875 million dollars in matching and automatic contributions. The real question is: How much did IBM save since stopping the pension program?

      I wonder how board members and shareholders feel about IBM watering down this program. I hope that the US Department of Labor and the U. S. Treasury officials investigate and force IBM to restore the program. What's next Big Blue? Requiring employees to pick up more of the cost of medial and dental coverage? Oh wait, that's already in place. -bogus-

    • Comment 12/07/12: I travel a lot on business and have been told by management to make sure I watch expenses and cut costs where I can, such as not taking toll roads in states where it is very expensive and using the cheapest parking at the airport, etc.. etc.. after this 401k fiasco I will assure you that I will maximize every expense I can, I used to use coupons to save IBM 30-40% for parking at the airport.. Well folks I just tore up those coupons and will never use them again.. IBM is paying the full rate from here on out, LOL.. Going to seriously start looking for a company who appreciates their workers because IBM DOES NOT!! -401K BS-
    • Comment 12/08/12: The last time I heard this much disgruntled chatter was when they dumped the pension plan. Wow... A new low for IBM. Maybe if they wouldn't be so obsessed with trying to trick Wall Street into thinking they are a growth company (and come on, nobody is fooled), they could invest in the employees and be a solid company that delivers quality products. The good news, I have multiple offers sitting in my inbox on LinkedIn. It is just a matter of time before I jump ship to someone that respects me and my peers. Such a sad state of affairs that IBM has become under poor leadership. Project after project, I see executives making poor decisions while at the same time I see some of the smartest engineers doing their bidding. Fortunately, the Googles, Amazons, etc know the talent that IBM has and is willing to pay for it. Oh well IBM, good luck with your third world "talent." -Anon-
    • Comment 12/08/12: IBM CEO and upper level management have contracts. After this information about the 401K, we as workers even more need a union contract. Join the union. -ANA-
News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
Minimize
  • Kaiser Health News: Insurance Surcharges Will Fund Most Online Exchanges Created Under Health Law. By Phil Galewitz. Excerpt: Republican governors in Florida, Virginia, Texas and several other states say they’re reluctant to build the online insurance markets required by the federal health law because they’re worried about getting stuck with the bills.

    "That’s not a good value proposition for the people of Virginia or any other state," Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell told Fox News last month.

    But Democrat-controlled California, which will run the country’s largest insurance market, will do so without taking a cent from the state treasury. Instead, operations of the market, also called an exchange, will be financed by a surcharge on the billions of dollars in insurance premiums sold in the exchange.

    That’s the same way most state and federal exchanges will be funded, according to government officials and health consultants working with states.

  • Washington Post: Walmart's New Health Care Policy Shifts Burden To Medicaid, Obamacare. By Alice Hines. Excerpt: Walmart, the nation’s largest private employer, plans to begin denying health insurance to newly hired employees who work fewer than 30 hours a week, according to a copy of the company’s policy obtained by The Huffington Post.

    Under the policy, slated to take effect in January, Walmart also reserves the right to eliminate health care coverage for certain workers if their average workweek dips below 30 hours -- something that happens with regularity and at the direction of company managers.

    Walmart declined to disclose how many of its roughly 1.4 million U.S. workers are vulnerable to losing medical insurance under its new policy. In an emailed statement, company spokesman David Tovar said Walmart had “made a business decision” not to respond to questions from The Huffington Post and accused the publication of unfair coverage.

    Labor and health care experts portrayed Walmart’s decision to exclude workers from its medical plans as an attempt to limit costs while taking advantage of the national health care reform known as Obamacare. Among the key features of Obamacare is an expansion of Medicaid, the taxpayer-financed health insurance program for poor people. Many of the Walmart workers who might be dropped from the company’s health care plans earn so little that they would qualify for the expanded Medicaid program, these experts said.

    “Walmart is effectively shifting the costs of paying for its employees onto the federal government with this new plan, which is one of the problems with the way the law is structured,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Labor Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

  • Washington Post: Some health exchange plans to mirror FEHBP. By Eric Yoder. Excerpts: Health-care offerings to be available in multiple states through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange system would parallel those of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program in many ways, although the two programs would not affect each other directly, under rules to be proposed on Wednesday.

    The rules from the Office of Personnel Management would set standards for multi-state plans on the exchanges, which are to be available starting in calendar year 2014. ...

    The rules aim to maintain a level playing field with other health-care plans to be offered through the exchanges, officials said. A multi-state insurance issuer could follow standards set by each pertinent state or could instead base an offering on one of the three largest nationwide FEHBP plans — two of Blue Cross-Blue Shield and one of the Government Employees Health Association — although they still would have to adhere to certain state requirements. ...

    The law meanwhile requires members of Congress and their personal staff, both in Washington and in their home states, to leave the FEHBP and get their health insurance through the exchanges when they become available. The rules do not address the status of the employer contribution for them.

  • Kaiser Health News: Health Plans Gear Up To Sell Directly To Consumers. By Julie Appleby. Excerpts: As the health care overhaul moves ahead, the nation's health insurers are scrambling to reinvent themselves, hoping to boost their image and entice millions of Americans to enroll, some for the first time.

    The new customers will mostly shop for and buy their own insurance -- a different and harder-to-reach group than the industry’s traditional employer clients. So insurers are seeking novel ways to reach them -- online, in shopping centers, even when they're preparing their taxes. ...

    All this is happening in anticipation that an estimated 9 million people will buy their own insurance in 2014 -- about 50 percent more than do so now. That's when the law goes into full effect and virtually all Americans will be required to have health insurance. Those not covered through their jobs will be able to buy policies online, through so-called exchanges that will be run by the states or the federal government. ...

    The law shakes up the industry's old business model by removing one of the key ways it currently limits financial risk: rejecting individual applicants with health conditions. Instead, starting in 2014, insurers can’t reject anyone, or charge more based on health history. They can, however, vary rates based on age, tobacco use and where applicants live.

  • National Public Radio (NPR): The Huge (And Rarely Discussed) Health Insurance Tax Break. By Julie Rovner. Excerpts: What's the largest tax break in the federal tax code? If you said the mortgage interest deduction, you'd be wrong. The break for charitable giving? Nope. How about capital gains, or state and local taxes? No, and no.

    Believe it or not, dollar for dollar, the most tax revenue the federal government forgoes every year is from not taxing the value of health insurance that employers provide their workers.

    Yet most people don't even realize that they don't pay taxes on the value of those health benefits. That's too bad, says MIT health economist Jonathan Gruber, because it represents a whole lot of money.

    "If we treated health insurance the same way we treat wages," says Gruber, "we would raise about $250 billion per year more." That not only makes the health insurance exclusion the federal government's largest tax break, but it's also "the third largest health care program in the U.S., after Medicare and Medicaid." ...

    One big reason economists from across the ideological spectrum don't much like the insurance tax exclusion is that it's regressive. That means those it helps the most are the richest people with the most generous health plans.

    "So if you're uninsured, you get nothing," says Ron Pollack of the consumer group Families USA. "If you're a low-wage worker, you get a very little tax break. If you get a lousy health care plan you get a very little break out of this."

News and Opinion Concerning the "War on the Middle Class"
Minimize "It is a restatement of laissez-faire-let things take their natural course without government interference. If people manage to become prosperous, good. If they starve, or have no place to live, or no money to pay medical bills, they have only themselves to blame; it is not the responsibility of society. We mustn't make people dependent on government- it is bad for them, the argument goes. Better hunger than dependency, better sickness than dependency."

"But dependency on government has never been bad for the rich. The pretense of the laissez-faire people is that only the poor are dependent on government, while the rich take care of themselves. This argument manages to ignore all of modern history, which shows a consistent record of laissez-faire for the poor, but enormous government intervention for the rich." From Economic Justice: The American Class System, from the book Declarations of Independence by Howard Zinn.

  • Crooks and Liars: Robert Reich Explains the Fiscal Choice. By Diane Sweet. Excerpts: The first thing to know about the so-called "fiscal cliff" is that it's not a cliff—it's a choice. It's a choice between making the 1% richer at the expense of everyone else, or lifting up 100% of Americans. It's a choice between American prosperity and European austerity.

    In this new video, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich breaks down the fiscal choice in 2 minutes and 30 seconds—with pictures, too. He also explains what Democrats must do to make sure the rich pay their fair share and get the economy working for everyone.

  • Washington Post opinion: Ralph Nader on a simple way to avoid the fiscal cliff: Tax stock trades. By Ralph Nader. Excerpts: n the debate over the “fiscal cliff,” President Obama and congressional Republicans have returned to the proposals that they were sparring over before the election. They remain at odds over key elements of revenue and spending. Yet both sides are unwilling to consider a minuscule tax on financial transactions that could be a major source of income.

    A financial transaction tax would apply to purchases and sales of derivatives, options and stocks. The tax would be small, half a penny or less on each dollar of the transaction value, depending on the product. This idea is often called a “speculation tax,” because it would hit hardest at frothy high-volume trading as opposed to sober long-term investment.

    Wall Street might object, but taxing its sales is hardly a radical idea. Americans in all but five states pay state sales taxes, ranging as high as 7 percent, every time they buy a car, an appliance, a pair of pants or piece of furniture, but a trader on Wall Street can buy and sell millions of dollars’ worth of financial products each day without paying a cent in sales taxes. A teacher or police officer who buys a $100 pair of shoes in the District or Maryland pays $6 in sales taxes. Meanwhile, if a financial speculation tax were applied to stock trades at a rate of 0.25 percent, a day trader would pay just 25 cents on every $100 worth of stock bought. ...

    As if its deficit-reducing potential weren’t enough, a financial transaction tax could reduce risky speculative trading that diverts resources from productive economic activity and can be very destabilizing, as the 2008-2009 crash demonstrated. In fact, this summer, more than 50 financial industry professionals, including past and present executives from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, signed a letter to the Group of 20 and European leaders supporting a speculation tax. They pointed out that financial market activity has skyrocketed in the past few decades: The value of transactions is now 70 times greater than the size of the real global economy. Trading volume has grown exponentially, skyrocketing from 188 billion shares of stock traded on the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange in 1995 to nearly 1 trillion in 2011. Each year, the notional value of over-the-counter derivatives traded worldwide totals trillions more.

  • New York Times opinion: Three-Card Budget Monte. By Paul Krugman. Excerpts: It goes without saying that the Republican “counteroffer” is basically fake. It calls for $800 billion in revenue from closing loopholes, but doesn’t specify a single loophole to be closed; it calls for huge spending cuts, but aside from raising the Medicare age and cutting the Social Security inflation adjustment — moves worth only around $300 billion — it doesn’t specify how these cuts are to be achieved. So it’s basically the Paul Ryan method: scribble down some numbers and pretend that you’re a budget wonk with a Serious plan.

    What I haven’t seen pointed out here is the longer arc of GOP strategy. Does anyone recall how the Bush tax cuts were passed? The 2001 cut was passed based on the claim that the government was running an excessive surplus; the 2003 cut on the claim that it would provide an economic boost. Then the surplus went away, and the economy did not, to say the least, perform very well.

    So now we face a substantial long-run deficit largely created by those tax cuts:

    And the GOP says that because of that deficit we must raise the Medicare age and cut Social Security! Oh, and for all the seniors or near-seniors who voted Republican because you thought they would protect Medicare from that bad guy Obama: you’ve been had.

  • Time Magazine viewpoint: Fiscal Cliff Fictions: Let’s All Agree to Pretend the GOP Isn’t Full of It. By Michael Grunwald. Full excerpt: It’s really amazing to see political reporters dutifully passing along Republican complaints that President Obama’s opening offer in the fiscal cliff talks is just a recycled version of his old plan, when those same reporters spent the last year dutifully passing along Republican complaints that Obama had no plan. It’s even more amazing to see them pass along Republican outrage that Obama isn’t cutting Medicare enough, in the same matter-of-fact tone they used during the campaign to pass along Republican outrage that Obama was cutting Medicare.

    This isn’t just cognitive dissonance. It’s irresponsible reporting. Mainstream media outlets don’t want to look partisan, so they ignore the BS hidden in plain sight, the hypocrisy and dishonesty that defines the modern Republican Party. I’m old enough to remember when Republicans insisted that anyone who said they wanted to cut Medicare was a demagogue, because I’m more than three weeks old.

    I’ve written a lot about the GOP’s defiance of reality–its denial of climate science, its simultaneous denunciations of Medicare cuts and government health care, its insistence that debt-exploding tax cuts will somehow reduce the debt—so I often get accused of partisanship. But it’s simply a fact that Republicans controlled Washington during the fiscally irresponsible era when President Clinton’s budget surpluses were transformed into the trillion-dollar deficit that President Bush bequeathed to President Obama. (The deficit is now shrinking.) It’s simply a fact that the fiscal cliff was created in response to GOP threats to force the U.S. government to default on its obligations. The press can’t figure out how to weave those facts into the current narrative without sounding like it’s taking sides, so it simply pretends that yesterday never happened.

  • Financial Times: Republicans in capital gains tax fight. By James Politi. Excerpts: Republicans in the House of Representatives are fighting tax increases on capital gains and dividends, ruling out investment income as an acceptable source of additional revenues in increasingly urgent talks to avert the fiscal cliff. ...

    The part of the negotiations relating to capital gains and dividends, which are currently taxed at 15 per cent, are being watched closely on Wall Street, where anxiety is growing about the possibility of a tax hike.

  • Smirking Chimp: 'Fix the Debt' Shows Its True, Billionaire-Funded, Anti-Tax Colors. By Richard Eskow. Excerpts: "Fix the Debt" is allegedly an impromptu alliance of America's largest CEOs. But it' really the latest manifestation of a perennially right-wing, pro-billionaire, pro-corporate lobby -- one created years ago by hedge fund manager and former Nixon Cabinet member Pete Peterson. It has assumed many shapes, forms, and identities over the years, always in the guise of a noble and "bipartisan" effort to address what it describes as the "urgent" issue of the Federal deficit. ...

    Peterson's Hydra-headed operation has gone by many names over the years, including the "Comeback America Initiative," "The Can Kicks Back," and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, to name just a few. But while the guises have been many, the message has always been the same: Gut Social Security and Medicare. Shrink government. And absurdly, reduce tax rates for millionaires and corporations in the name of deficit reduction.

  • AlterNet: Bernie Sanders: 'We Will Not Accept Cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid'. At the annual Nation Institute gala, progressives cheer a principled stand on the so-called fiscal cliff. By Lynn Stuart Parramore. Excerpts: According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, it's time for progressives to stop playing defense, and start playing offense. He wants us to start with a strong stand to keep billionaires from controlling our political process, as they are now attempting to do in the so-called fiscal cliff debate. "We will not accept cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid," he said to thundering applause at a New York City gathering on Monday night. ...

    Sporting a shock of white hair and the Brooklyn accent of his working-class childhood, the irrepressible Sanders launched right into the political topic of the moment, the "fiscal cliff." He declared that the deficit was a result of the Bush tax cuts, a Wall Street-driven recession, and two unfunded wars initiated by George W. Bush. The principled stand for progressives, he insisted, was to defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from any cuts. Social Security, he emphasized, "has not contributed a nickel to the deficit." Sanders also called for progressives to end red state/blue state regional divisions and embrace a new 50-state strategy. "There are good people in Mississippi," Sanders reminded the audience, and "we need to stand with them." Sanders also focused on the travesty of income inequality and poverty in the United States, a global embarrassment, and announced his hope that in two years, he will preside over a single-payer healthcare system in Vermont. The primary problems facing the country, he said, were unemployment, infrastructure and climate change -- not the deficit.

  • YouTube: The Simpson's Montgomery Burns Explains "The Fiscal Cliff" (video, 1 min, 13 sec).
  • Washington Post opinion: The shifting line on tax cuts. By Ruth Marcus. Excerpts: Memories are short, which is lucky for politicians. Consider the current debate over letting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire, and the largely forgotten rationale for cutting taxes in the first place.

    Hint: It wasn’t because rates were too high. It was because the surplus was too big.

    Yes, too big.

    President George W. Bush laid out this reasoning in his first address to Congress, in February 2001. “Many of you have talked about the need to pay down our national debt. I listened, and I agree,” he said, vowing to eliminate $2 trillion in debt over the next decade.

    Likewise, he said, the nation, like “any prudent family,” should have a “contingency fund” for emergencies. And so, Bush assured the nation, he would set aside another sum, nearly $1 trillion over 10 years.

    “That is 1 trillion additional reasons,” he said, “you can feel comfortable supporting this budget.”

    Even with that rainy-day fund, and the budget growing at a comfortable 4 percent, Bush argued, “we still have money left over” for a tax cut. ...

    Smart people in both parties understood, even then, that the projected surplus was uncertain; that the rosy estimates did not adequately account for the long-term needs of Medicare and Social Security; and that the true cost of the tax cut, obscured through budget gimmickry, was greater than advertised. They were right.

    As it turned out, the people of America — in particular, the rich people of America — hadn’t been overcharged, they were undercharged. They received an unaffordable tax cut premised on the false notion of affordability.

    Don’t take it from me, take it from Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain — that is, McCain circa 2001 and 2003.

    “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us,” McCain said in 2001.

  • AlterNet: The Obscenely Rich Men Bent on Shredding the Safety Net. CEOs talk about shared sacrifice, but the only thing they want to share is your retirement money with their wealthy friends. By Lynn Stuart Parramore. Excerpts: New York magazine calls it a “Mass Movement for Millionaires.” The New York Times' Paul Krugman sums up the idea: “Hey, sacrifice is for the little people.

    The Campaign to Fix the Debt is a huge, and growing, coalition of powerful CEOs, politicians and policy makers on a mission to lower taxes for the rich and to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid under the cover of concern about the national debt. The group was spawned in July 2012 by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, architects of a misguided deficit reduction scheme in Washington back in 2010. By now, the "fixers" have collected a war chest of $43 million. Private equity billionaire Peter G. Peterson, longtime enemy of the social safety net, is a major supporter.

    This new Wall Street movement, which includes Republicans and plenty of Democrats, is hitting the airwaves, hosting roundtables, gathering at lavish fundraising fêtes, hiring public relations experts, and traveling around the country to push its agenda. The group aims to seize the moment of the so-called "fiscal cliff" debate to pressure President Obama to concede to House Republicans and continue the Bush income tax cuts for the rich while shredding the social safety net. The group includes Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein, JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, Honeywell’s David Cote, Aetna’s Mark Bertolini, Delta Airlines’ Richard Anderson, Boeing’s W. James McNerney, and over 100 other influential business honchos and their supporters.

  • Huffington Post: If We Did Not Share in the Prosperity, Why Should We Have to Share in the Sacrifice? By Rev. Al Sharpton. Excerpts: When the great recession of 2008 struck, it hit some of us harder than others. Middle class families, the poor, people of color and the workers of America suffered the most, while those that caused the crisis were largely unscathed -- many even increased their wealth. Today, when we are in danger of going over the notorious fiscal cliff, some repeatedly speak of 'shared sacrifice.' But when the top 2 percent were enjoying their tax breaks and stockpiling their prosperity, there was no sharing with the masses. And instead, these individuals and groups now have the audacity to ask seniors, minorities, folks whose children fought in our wars, the disenfranchised and the most vulnerable among us to sacrifice some more. Does that seem fair to you? ...

    Simply put: if we did not share in the prosperity, then we should not be asked to share in the sacrifice. Period. The New America spoke on Election Day and we want the 2 percent to make sure they hear us now.

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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