IBM Tells Vermont Its Layoff Numbers, Begs State to Keep Them Secret

Global computer giant IBM — one of Vermont's largest private employers — was legally required to tell the state how many employees were laid off in the latest round of job cuts at Essex Junction. And it did so. But it doesn't want you to find out.

IBM has provided the state with details about the number of jobs cut at its Essex Junction plant, but it wants the state to keep the information from the public.

The company claims that releasing the number could harm it.

It's a tough life for IBM. If the public finds out how many people lost their jobs in Vermont, the competitive position of a global behemoth could somehow be harmed. The potential injury is so huge that IBM's claiming an exemption from the Vermont Public Records Act.

Seems like just a continuation of IBM's nondisclosure policy, intended to minimize the PR impact of domestic job cuts. Fortunately, sounds like the state's not buying it either:

[Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan] says the state isn't convinced the law applies to the job cuts number and citing requests to make the figure public, the department is telling IBM it needs to make a stronger case for withholding it.

Let's see if IBM can compute a more compelling pretext. As for the truth, we turn to the union that's been watchdogging IBM's reign of terror:

Lee Conrad, national coordinator of Alliance@IBM, said Tuesday IBM has been "stonewalling" on job cut numbers nationwide for years.

"They've not been transparent at all," Conrad said. "They don't release the U.S. figures any more. Frankly this doesn't surprise me. The citizens of Vermont should be outraged that IBM is thumbing their nose at them, saying 'We're not going to tell you our figures.'"

We don't know exactly how many people still work at Essex. But it's estimated that employment has fallen from 8,500 in 2001 to less than 4,000 today. Probably a lot less, according to this comment from a laid-off IBMer, posted on the Freeploid's website:

Not surprised at all about the IBM moves to keep the numbers confidential; they are much bigger than expected and Big Blew doesn't want the folks to know that the end of this plant is near. My estimate... is greater than 600. Of course us older folks that were "pushed" to retire will not be in the final released number even though we were really layer off (sic). That coming from a company that is wondering why there is distrust.

If that estimate is correct — 600 layoffs plus forced "retirements" — then the workforce at Essex Junction is not much more than 3,000. And, per industry insider Robert X. Cringely, IBM will continue to aggressively downsize its American operations for at least two more years.

And given IBM's recent track record of corporate citizenship, I won't be sorry to see them go. I'm very sorry that we've already lost the IBM that used to be, but that ship sailed long ago. The current IBM isn't worth the trouble.  

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