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Highlights—December 27, 2008

  • Newsday: Gray Matters: Retirement vehicles in the breakdown lane. By Saul Friedman. Excerpts: She had been an obscure academic economist, but one financial columnist called Teresa Ghilarducci "the most dangerous woman in America." Rush Limbaugh denounced her as "arrogant" and a "socialist." And even a member of Congress who had invited her to testify, backed away from what she said.

    Her crime? Ghilarducci, had suggested that savings plans such as 401(k)s were failing as retirement vehicles, especially now, and they should be replaced by a safer, government "Guaranteed Retirement Account," similar to a traditional defined benefit pension, to supplement Social Security and private savings.

    But attacking 401(k)s was considered heresy. Limbaugh, The Wall Street Journal and other critics, charged that Ghilarducci and the Democrats wanted to take away everyone's 401 (k). Not that 401(k)s are in such great shape theses days, but Ghilarducci, who taught economics at Notre Dame for 25 years, wanted no such thing.

    You can have your 401(k), she says, but don't mistake it for a retirement plan, for chances are it isn't near enough to retire on. These days most people don't even want to look at their account balances.

    Ghilarducci, the director at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School in New York, was instead seeking to revive the defined benefit pension system whose slow death threatens the retirement security of millions of Americans. That frightening prospect, of course, has been made more acute by the decimation of most savings plans. Thus, of the three traditional legs of the retirement stool, only Social Security remains secure.

  • Yahoo! IBM Employee Issues message board: "They are impossible - yes I'm venting also" by "amax41". Full excerpt: Simply amazing - a couple mishaps on TEAs and now I am the loser. An airline expense that was never claimed - and obviously paid for eventually by myself. Now 2 years later, they pull an audit of the division and find that I'm out of whack due to this expense. However now even though I'm expensing it...I'm stuck paying again. Since I would have to audit at least 1 if not almost 2 years of expenses vs. TEAs vs. my personal payments in order to prove - not to IBM but to AMEX - that I am owed the money.

    I asked them when they are going to supply accountants for us since we are treated like independent consultants, and if they weren't how do we expense that since for a road warrior it would take at least an accountant to keep track of all the debits and credits that run through the corporate card over a year to keep everything straight.

    Again IBM is an angel (cough) and we are the assholes.

  • Mercer: US-Canada tax protocol takes effect Jan. 1, providing mutual recognition of retirement plans. Excerpt: A protocol amending the US-Canada tax treaty allows mutual recognition of the other country's "qualifying retirement plans" for tax purposes, generally effective Jan. 1, 2009. The protocol eases costs and complications for firms employing people across the Canada-US border, regardless of whether the individual continues to participate in the home country pension plan or is covered by the pension of the host employment location. The protocol also addresses, among other things, salary and stock option income.
  • New York Times opinion: The Labor Agenda. Excerpts: There is no doubt that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen a labor secretary who could be a transformative force in a long-neglected arena. The question is whether he will let her. Hilda Solis, a United States representative from Southern California, is the daughter of immigrant parents with union jobs. She has been an unfailing advocate of workers’ rights during eight years in Congress and before that, in California politics. ...

    The first and biggest test of Mr. Obama’s commitment to labor, and to Ms. Solis, will be his decision on whether or not to push the Employee Free Choice Act in 2009. Corporate America is determined to derail the bill, which would make it easier than it has been for workers to form unions by requiring that employers recognize a union if a majority of employees at a workplace sign cards indicating they wish to organize. ...

    The measure is vital legislation and should not be postponed. Even modest increases in the share of the unionized labor force push wages upward, because nonunion workplaces must keep up with unionized ones that collectively bargain for increases. By giving employees a bigger say in compensation issues, unions also help to establish corporate norms, the absence of which has contributed to unjustifiable disparities between executive pay and rank-and-file pay. ...

    Another question clouding the labor agenda is whether Mr. Obama will give equal weight to worker concerns — from reforming health care to raising the minimum wage — while the financial crisis is still playing out. Most members of his economic team are veterans of the Clinton administration who tilt toward Wall Street. In the Clinton era, financial issues routinely trumped labor concerns. If Mr. Obama’s campaign promises are to be kept, that mindset cannot prevail again. Mr. Obama’s creation of a task force on middle-class issues, to be led by Vice President-elect Joseph Biden and including Ms. Solis and other high-ranking officials, is an encouraging sign that labor issues will not be given short shrift.

News and Opinion Concerning Health Savings Accounts, Medical Costs and Health Care Reform
  • New York Times: At House Party on Health Care, the Diagnosis Is It’s Broken. By Robert Pear. Excerpts: When a dozen consumers gathered over the weekend to discuss health care at the behest of President-elect Barack Obama, they quickly agreed on one point: they despise health insurance companies. They also agreed that health care was a right; that insurance should cover “everything,” not just some services; and that coverage should be readily available from the government, as well as from employers. ...

    One of the people seated around Ms. Hijane’s dining room table, Bruce D. Chatman, worked for I.B.M. for 29 years. Corporations, he said, have too much influence in the legislative process and the health care system. He wants to counterbalance their power with the energy and passion of citizens lobbying for themselves.

    Mr. Chatman, a Chicago native who lives in Fort Washington, Md., said he had been inspired by Mr. Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope” and started working for his campaign as a volunteer in April 2007. “I don’t believe health care should depend on people making money,” Mr. Chatman said. “The profit motive has to be tempered, especially on the administrative side of the health care business.”

  • Forbes: The Worst Places To Be Sick And Poor. The quality of state Medicaid programs varies widely, according to two studies. By Matthew Herper. Excerpt: Public Citizen, a watchdog group, collated data from the Kaiser Family Foundation in April 2007 to create the only ranking of how Medicare programs rank state by state, the basis for this ranking of the worst places to be sick and poor--that is, the places where it would be worst to get stuck on Medicaid. ...

    The problems don't exist with Medicare, or with public health firms like United Healthcare. They seem to relate to an inability of state programs to keep up with industry standards, the company says. In one example, insurers and Medicare switched to identifying every doc by a single number rather than having a different one for each plan. But twenty-four states missed this deadline, Athena says.

  • Forbes: Why Tech Can't Cure Medical Inflation. Computers in medicine aren't a cure. They might even make the system sicker. By Lee Gomes. Excerpts: Whenever President-elect Obama is asked how he'll pay for his ambitious health care reform plans, he invariably talks about the $80 billion in annual savings he'll get from bringing computerized recordkeeping to doctors' offices and hospitals. If only that were true. While there are benefits that might be had from using computers more widely in medicine, doing so won't save us any money and, in fact, will likely make things more expensive. There's even a chance that the quality of care might get worse along the way. ...

    Instead, the heart of the problem is the U.S. fee-for-service system, in which doctors get paid to do things to people. The more technical and invasive the procedure, the more money they make. Doctors have responded in the expected Pavlovian manner, collectively shifting away from basic primary care toward expensive specializations that run up costs without necessarily improving medical outcomes.

    As any chief information officer can tell you, adding computers to this sort of inefficient process only makes the inefficiency happen more quickly.

    Much of what doctors or policymakers know about technology comes from vendors, who are busy guilt-tripping the medical sector about being slow to get with it. But more quietly, health care economists have been studying the actual impact of these systems. Their findings should disturb those who look to information technology for an easy fix. ...

    The notion that computers can save $80 billion stemmed from a 2005 Rand Corp. study. But the study had an important and usually overlooked caveat--that other changes to the system would also have to be made in order for the savings to occur. But the big inefficiencies in the U.S. system won't disappear simply by adding computers. For example, most health care experts say Americans overuse expensive medical imaging devices when X-rays are often just as useful. But imagine the lobbying effort by radiologists and devicemakers if their ox was about to be gored.

    Computers have a role to play in medicine, and there are doctors using them to provide better and more profitable care. But the notion they're a panacea is a symptom of the fixation with high-tech gadgets that's part of the problem in the first place.

  • Political Irony: Universal Health Care Merry Go Round (cartoon...excellent!)
  • U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: Where do we go from here? Excerpts: When Barack Obama is sworn in as president of the United States on Jan. 20, he will inherit a series of problems more severe than at any time since the Great Depression. Here are just a few of the issues that he, the Congress and all Americans must confront:

    The middle class is continuing its steep decline with unemployment soaring, and millions of people in danger of losing their homes, savings and health insurance. The dream of a college education is fading away for many working families as college costs go up while incomes go down. This year, as a result of the economic downturn, the bailout of Wall Street, ongoing tax breaks for the very rich and the war in Iraq, our nation will have a record-breaking deficit and a huge $10.4 trillion dollar national debt.

    As a result of Wall Street greed, recklessness and dishonesty, our entire financial system is in danger of collapsing. The taxpayers of this country have seen trillions of their dollars placed at risk in the largest bailout in world history. ...

    The very good news is that we are finally seeing the end of the most incompetent and reactionary administration in the modern history of this country. It is my hope and expectation that, in very short order, President Obama will begin moving this country in a very different direction from where Bush has led us, and I look forward to working with him in that effort. The time is long overdue for the U.S. government to begin representing the needs of our middle-class and working families, and not just the greedy, the wealthy and the powerful.

    Here are some of the initiatives that I will be fighting for as soon as the new Congress reconvenes in January...

  • New York Times: Add Up the Damage. By Bob Herbert. Excerpts: And then there’s the Bush economy, another disaster, a trapdoor through which middle-class Americans can plunge toward the bracing experiences normally reserved for the poor and the destitute. Mr. Bush traveled the country in the early days of his presidency, promoting his tax cut plans as hugely beneficial to small-business people and families of modest means. This was more deceit. The tax cuts would go overwhelmingly to the very rich.

    The president would give the wealthy and the powerful virtually everything they wanted. He would throw sand into the regulatory apparatus and help foster the most extreme income disparities since the years leading up to the Great Depression. Once again he was lighting a fire. This time the flames would engulf the economy and, as with Iraq, bring catastrophe.

    If the U.S. were a product line, it would be seen now as deeply damaged goods, subject to recall.

  • Taking Note: Four Health Care Media Myths That Didn’t Go Away in 2008. By Niko Karvounis. Excerpts: No matter how you slice it, health care is complicated—which means that the media has a vital role to play in helping the public navigate the ins and outs of the issue. Unfortunately, more often than not, reporters, commentators, and pundits don’t serve as trustworthy guides when it comes to health care. In fact, 2008 saw the media once again regurgitating myths that obscure the facts surrounding health care in the United States. Here are some of the most egregious offenders.
    • Access Is Not a Problem...
    • The Socialized Medicine Bogeyman...
    • Blame the Immigrants...
    • Pity the Employers...
News and Opinion Concerning the U.S. Financial Crisis
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.

  • Associated Press: AP study finds $1.6B went to bailed-out bank execs. By Frank Bass and Rita Beamish. Excerpts: Banks that have their hands out in Washington this year were handing out multimillion-dollar rewards to their executives last year. The 116 banks that so far have received taxpayer dollars to boost them through the economic crisis gave their top tier of executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses and other benefits in 2007, an Associated Press analysis found.

    That amount, spread among the 600 highest paid bank executives, would cover the bailout money given to 53 of the banks that have shared the $188 billion that Washington has doled out in rescue packages so far.

    Some banks trimmed their executive compensation in the face of faltering performance that foreshadowed the current economic crisis, but they still granted multimillion-dollar packages. Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships and professional money management, the AP review of federal securities documents found.

    Such bonuses amount to a bribe for executives "to get them to do the jobs for which they are well paid in the first place," said Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House Financial Services committee. "Most of us sign on to do jobs, and we do them best we can," said Frank. "We're told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!" ...

    Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D. Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corp., took a $1 million hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $17 million in stock options. The McLean, Va.-based company received $3.56 billion in bailout money on Nov. 14.

    John A. Thain, chief executive of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year. Thain, a former chief operating officer for Goldman Sachs, came to Merrill Lynch in December 2007, avoiding the blame for a year in which Merrill lost $7.8 billion. Since he began work late in the year, he earned $57,692 in salary, a $15 million signing bonus and an additional $68 million in stock options.

  • Forbes: Why The SEC Missed Madoff. SEC investigators were duped by Madoff, too. Can Wall Street's fuzz get its own house in order? By Liz Moyer. Excerpts: The SEC's fiscal year 2008 authorized spending budget: $906 million. The estimated financial toll from the alleged Madoff swindle: $50 billion.The price of regulatory reform? At this point, probably worth the money. ...

    The SEC's coziness with Wall Street was a point raised by a former SEC investigator, Gary Aguirre, who was fired in 2005 after investigating possible insider trading by Pequot Capital. Aguirre has contended for three years that political considerations blocked him from pursuing the investigation, particularly after it involved interviewing the well-connected Wall Street chief John Mack, now of Morgan Stanley

    A joint report by the Senate judiciary and finance committees in August 2007 sided with Aguirre and sharply rebuked the SEC's failure to pursue the case. More recently the SEC's inspector general recommended disciplining senior SEC officials, but an administrative law judge ruled against him.

    Aguirre, who lives in San Diego, says President-elect Obama should recreate the SEC with a completely different culture and realign it with its mission of enforcement. The failure to vigorously investigate Madoff before now "is a new low," Aguirre said Wednesday. "But it is absolutely consistent with everything that has happened this year."

  • New York Times: Life Without Bubbles, by Paul Krugman. Excerpts: Whatever the new administration does, we’re in for months, perhaps even a year, of economic hell. After that, things should get better, as President Obama’s stimulus plan — O.K., I’m told that the politically correct term is now “economic recovery plan” — begins to gain traction. Late next year the economy should begin to stabilize, and I’m fairly optimistic about 2010. ...

    The prosperity of a few years ago, such as it was — profits were terrific, wages not so much — depended on a huge bubble in housing, which replaced an earlier huge bubble in stocks. And since the housing bubble isn’t coming back, the spending that sustained the economy in the pre-crisis years isn’t coming back either.

  • Huffington Post: Will Barack Obama Commit Industrial Policy? By Robert Kuttner, Co-Founder and Co-Editor of The American Prospect. Excerpts: Barack Obama may soon find that he is committing a big sin against one of the major premises of the reigning ideology. As part of his plan to restructure the auto industry, rebuild infrastructure, and create new green industries and jobs, he will be committing industrial policy. And this will create a head-on collision with one of the cherished dogmas of market fundamentalism -- "free trade."

    This clash is long overdue. For several decades, American elites of both parties have been preaching the same gospel of free trade. Supposedly, if we just leave markets alone, different countries will produce and export what they naturally do best, and import products at which their partners excel. In the tidy and oversimplified textbook world, there is no room for questions about pollution, labor standards, product safety, financial engineering, or industrial policy.

    But the real world doesn't work like the Econ. 101 fable. In much of the rest of the world, governments help their industries develop.

    However, in the hierarchy of America's diplomatic priorities, countries like China that subsidize industries (and violate human rights) get a free pass. Other nations like Japan, that basically closed their borders to most imports for several decades while they became industrial powerhouses, got a seal of approval, too. Supposedly, what we lose in jobs and industries, we make up in cheap imports.

  • New York Times: Time to Reboot America. By Thomas L. Friedman. Excerpts: I had a bad day last Friday, but it was an all-too-typical day for America.

    It actually started well, on Kau Sai Chau, an island off Hong Kong, where I stood on a rocky hilltop overlooking the South China Sea and talked to my wife back in Maryland, static-free, using a friend’s Chinese cellphone. A few hours later, I took off from Hong Kong’s ultramodern airport after riding out there from downtown on a sleek high-speed train — with wireless connectivity that was so good I was able to surf the Web the whole way on my laptop.

    Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?) As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before. Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. It closed in 1998.

    The next day I went to Penn Station, where the escalators down to the tracks are so narrow that they seem to have been designed before suitcases were invented. The disgusting track-side platforms apparently have not been cleaned since World War II. I took the Acela, America’s sorry excuse for a bullet train, from New York to Washington. Along the way, I tried to use my cellphone to conduct an interview and my conversation was interrupted by three dropped calls within one 15-minute span.

    All I could think to myself was: If we’re so smart, why are other people living so much better than us? What has become of our infrastructure, which is so crucial to productivity? Back home, I was greeted by the news that General Motors was being bailed out — that’s the G.M. that Fortune magazine just noted “lost more than $72 billion in the past four years, and yet you can count on one hand the number of executives who have been reassigned or lost their job.” ...

    To top it off, we’ve fallen into a trend of diverting and rewarding the best of our collective I.Q. to people doing financial engineering rather than real engineering. These rocket scientists and engineers were designing complex financial instruments to make money out of money — rather than designing cars, phones, computers, teaching tools, Internet programs and medical equipment that could improve the lives and productivity of millions.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site
  • From an e-mail sent to Alliance@IBM members: Happy New Year to all our members, associate members and subscribers. Our new officers and chapter reps elected by the dues paying members in the November election are listed below.

    New officers 2009 to 2012:

    • Tom Midgley / President (Poughkeepsie)
    • Earl Mongeon / Vice President (Burlington)
    • Jim Mangi / Secretary (Southbury)
    • Rick White / Treasurer (Endicott)

    New chapter reps:

    • Bill Costine / Fishkill Rep
    • Lee Conrad / Endicott Rep
    • Jeff Houseman / Burlington Rep
    • Bill McGreevy / Southbury Rep
    • Fran Pflug / RTP Rep
    • Helen Domaratz-Ting/ Boulder
    • Linda Guyer / Rep At-Large, Software
    • Steve Gellis / At-Large, NJ
    • Andy Mayer / At-Large, Calif.

  • Job Cuts Status & Comments page
    • Comment 12/21/08: I started with IBM in the mid 1980's. Back then I was proud to say I was working for IBM. In the 1980's, Sammy Palmisano, Nick Donofrio and all of the other knuckle heads in the good ole boys club were taking IBM into a downward spiral. Lou Gerstner was brought in to bring IBM back to life. He had to make some tough decisions, but I believe he did bring IBM out of the crapper. When Lou retired, he handed control back over to the knuckleheads (Palmisano, Donofrio, etc.) who almost ran the company into the ground in the 1980's.

      After the pay cut last winter, I decided enough was enough. IBM had taken away so much over the years little by little, that the pay reduction was the final straw for me. I had always been a top contributor and the payback was getting my pay cut. I put my resume online. Within a month I had a new job making 25% more thank I was at IBM, I have great benefits. I love my job and I enjoy going to work everyday.

      This company has respect for the individual (remember that campaign??). Respect for the individual is non-existent at IBM. My nephew in college said that they use IBM as a case study of how NOT to run a company. We have all read the posts where folks that leave IBM find jobs where they are much happier. It is absolutely true. IBM is run by fear. Sammy Palmisano and Nicky Donofrio and company are only interested in lining their own pockets. I know the economy is tight now, but the best time to look for a job is while you still have a job. I would encourage you to post your resume out on monster.com while you are still employed. -CP-

    • Comment 12/22/08: Good luck to everyone. The layoffs are coming. All divisions in IBM will be affected. The majority of those cuts hitting the US workforce. End of January. Get all your ducks in a row. Time is running out. -tai mai shue-
    • Comment 12/22/08: The official layoff notification date is January 23rd, 2009. IBM is laying off a large number of people (16,000+) so they were required to notify the government. If you're affected by this your manager already knows your status! Good luck to everyone as they outsource our jobs to foreign nations. -miss understanding-
    • Comment 12/23/08: -CP- I can agree with you except for one point. Gerstner did not bring IBM out of the crapper: IBM employees did. We should not let anyone forget this! Lou Jr. also was interested in lining his pockets at the expense of IBM. He made well over $500M in stock options and bonuses in about 9 years. He still has his retirement perks. LOU JR KNOWS THE VALUE OF A CONTRACT TOO. HE HAS ONE STILL WITH IBM. Why can't we get ours while still employed in IBM or have our retirement benefits protected in writing when we leave IBM? -All4LouNone4U-
    • Comment 12/23/08: What happens to the people who are on short- or long- term disability? Is the almighty IBM legally allowed to target those folks too? -HappyNewYear- Alliance reply: IBM has 'ways' of doing it. It's been done in the past, to people that did not have the wherewithal to fight back. Legally? Good question.
    • Comment 12/23/08: I was one of the chosen few who went to Qualxserv for 2 years and then was axed when IBM moved the printer contract to a cheaper co. I ran into one of the PSG CE's who moved to the Ricoh/IBM quagmire who said they have to clean up IBM's messes all day due to unqualified people pissing off major accounts. You get what you pay for.

      The main reason I was "chosen" to be moved was I was over 45 years old. I now work for a smaller company as a field engineer mainly with servers and federal government contracts so the customer isn't going anywhere. I am paid 50% more than IBM's pittance and my contributions are appreciated. Funny, in my government server rooms, I see and work with plenty of Dell, HP, and Sun equipment and there is very little Big Blue, less than 5%.

      I got some very good training and experience in my 15 years with IBM and I was able to utilize this to get a better position. My advice: get out while you can. The market's tough right now but jobs are out there. Don't leave any stone unturned. My thoughts and prayers are with those about to be laid off and their families. In today's world your 're just a number on a spreadsheet and one day they plug in a cheaper number. Sign me: -Happy to be away from the Blue Monster-

    • Comment 12/23/08: I have confirmation from two independent, well-placed SWG sources that a major layoff is underway. No confirmation of when or extent at this time. -NaN-
    • Comment 12/23/08: To -darwin's radio- All the divisions within ibm are affected. From what I was told, many areas didn't make the 80 - 85% globalization of accounts in 2008, so they're pushing hard for 1st quarter results. As they did with lean, they will lay off first, then re-organize later. If you have a technical job, developer job, dba job, S/A job, PM job, or work in the software groups, manufacturing areas, etc ALL are affected. If you have a good mgr, they might give you an inkling as to whether you need to start looking for something else, but from what I was told, the mgrs are being told to respond to employee questions as follows: "I have not heard anything specific about reorgs/resource actions" If you hear that, watch out, they know something. -miss understanding-
    • Comment 12/23/08: My manager is involved in the layoff planning in our division (part of the technology group). He told me the numbers in our division were going to be very large, a lot larger than what the other managers were expecting. He moved half of us onto projects with government funding commitments and thinks he can protect the people he has left, but he's not sure. Nobody wants to fear-monger, but the layoffs are coming. I used to be in management (I got better), and I can see the familiar patterns here (sudden movements of people they are cherry-picking to protect, the way denials are given, the acceleration of the review process so they have the lambs lined up, etc.). -Tom IBM Emp-
    • Comment 12/23/08: The layoff date is January 23rd. Approx. 16,000 employees worldwide will be affected. The majority from the US. I heard this from a 2nd line mgr. Confidentiality agreements were signed in the upper ranks to keep this hush, hush, but nothing this big stays out of the light for long. Good luck everyone. -the fix is in-
    • Comment 12/24/08: Personally, I would like to see a Union Representative on the Board of Directors of every major US Corporation. This business of instructing managers to LIE and mislead their employees is crazy. As a former IBM Manager, I know that most of the HR roll (Randy McDonald's role) is coaching management on how to lie. It really depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is. With a union rep on the board of directors, we'd have a resident whistle blower, and these wormy bastards might behave themselves. -John-
    • Comment 12/24/08: All movement (transfers) are completely FROZEN until February 2009. The tool on w3 is disabled and no one can transfer employees in or out. Anyone know if this has to do with the massive lay offs being discussed here? -anon-
    • Comment 12/24/08: BTV will get hit hard on January 23rd. You can't keep 6000 employees working when there is no work. We can thank Sammy Palmashito and his cronies for that. GREED, GREED, GREED is all I can say about Sammy. The greedy bastard. And he will continue to cut jobs in the US and continue to offshore until everything created by the Watsons are gone. Gone for good. What a way to ruin a great company. I used to love working for IBM and was proud to wear my badge. Now I am ashamed to be working for such a greedy bastard who is only interested in his own personal wealth. Millions and Millions of dollars per year. It would be Billions and Billions if the greedy S.O.B. could figure out a way to do it. I am totally disgusted with IBM management right now. Merry Christmas to all. Enjoy it now because it won't be a Happy New Year. -Tiny Tim-
    • Comment 12/25/08: IBM managers have been thru some training. Manager pipeline says all cuts will be done by early March and hear of a possible buyout. Buyout probably wont be lucrative but another sign of the times. Dev Mgrs cutting projects, Support Mgrs being asked to participate - Walt Ling org have not heard numbers but they should participate, also see an increase of contractors from last cuts (Nov) going into Support areas. -anonymous-
    • Comment 12/26/08: Can I suggest a work slow-down from 1/5 till 1/23. They already have their list (sammy Grinch demanded it before XMAS) so why bust ass??? Can't wait to see the look on the faces of brown-nosers as their told to hit the street. LMFAO -Rich French Fry-
    • Comment 12/27/08: I have a theory about some of the stuff going on. As many of us are, IBM is in the process of created Global Delivery Facilities, based on the theory that we work better when we are near other people on our team to make communication easier. I think there is a major flaw in this They are supposedly only making people who live within 50 miles of the sites go in to work. So what about the rest of the team? One thing I've heard from someone who works at a GDF site; is they bring a bunch of people in from a specific area to work, so they can bring them in a large conference room, so they can tell them all at once that they are being laid off. So if you live within 50 miles of one of the GDFs, your dept is going to have to watch out. -thinkingman-
    • Comment 12/27/08: I always believe in giving a dollar worth of work for a dollar worth of pay. Since IBM cut people's pay by 15% then they should reduce their output by 15%. Fair is fair, tick for tack. Also people bring told to train their replacements, should take their sweet time and if they don't finish training their replacements so be it. They are still out the door so why try to make the time frame for training, managers can always finish training. Ha Ha! Retired -Vinnie-
    • Comment 12/29/08: I've seen a few references to IBM selling off part of its business. I was at first doubtful on this rumor, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Why would IBM sacrifice support levels for cheaper labor? The answer is two-fold - one, to make it look extremely profitable with low overhead, and two, why would IBM care about customer sat. when they're going to sell it off this year (all rumor of course, I haven't seen anything official). Accounts are already being impacted by the teams in India and Brazil (I've had a database be down for 48 hours+ while the Brazil DBA team was being engaged (they couldn't FIND the team, and when they did, not a single one of them had user id on the system). It's pretty obvious that IBM is only interested in keeping the accounts' heads above water until they can sell. -waiting_for_the_axe-
    • Comment 12/30/08: To worried: I am 45, and worked for big blow for 10 years before I got the axe. I now work for a smaller company, better salary, and am treated right. Like many have said, it's better on the outside. There are other jobs out there, you just have to get out and find them. Those of you who sit there worried and wait for the axe to fall will definitely get hit by it eventually. Unless the Union takes place in this company, there is absolutely no hope for American employees. -Not_Worried-
    • Comment 12/30/08: I frequently look at comments about IBM in glassdoor.com. Here is a recent one that would come as no surprise to most of us: ================ Cons Management lies, and as a first line manager, I know ... Indeed my management chain requires me to lie to my team: people I trust and respect. Lies and misrepresentation are the IBM family values, particularly for personnel issues and also for business metrics. That is the biggest downside - you never know when you're getting the straight story. For example, the PBC system is a ranking system. A first line manager is told what their "skew" has to be - the company advertises that a first line manager can use their own judgment for differentiation between team members, subject to some oversight to ensure equity. In actual fact managers are told what to do and are required to lie to their team members so that the executives can make their metrics. There are many other examples - and I see them every day - it always comes down to managing the metrics, rather than the results. ================= -Anonymous-
    • Comment 12/30/08: To -concerned BTVer- What can I do to protect MY job? That about sums it up. Answer. NOTHING. What WE can do to protect OUR jobs is organize into a Union. Every day that passes with no action by YOU is another day too late to save anything. Wake up and smell the pink slips people. The look-busy-and-no-one-will-notice does not work when IBM is dumping entire divisions. Have you discussed a Union with your co- workers? Have you handed out flyers? Have you done anything more, then try to hide under your desk when a big bad manager walks by? It sounds like you already figure you're gone so what do you have to lose? If nothing else, they may respect you as they walk you out the door; because you didn't just take it like a sheep. I suspect either way you will be walking out the door, so why go meekly? This goes for all who are sitting on their thumbs waiting for the axe to drop. Rage against it. Like Sprinsteen's song says, "These jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back" (My Home Town). -Exodus2007-
    • Comment 12/31/08: Heard from a reliable source today. Jan 22 is the date. 20% headcount cut (it was not specified to me if this figure is WW or US only), SW will be hit hardest. -Concerned-
  • General Visitor's Comment page
    • Comment 12/27/08: I worked for IBM Australia for 20 years; a top performer who provided thousands of hours of unpaid overtime. Robert Savage (the then Chairman of IBM Australia) sold me and my coworkers in the Wagngaratta Plant off to a startup company which subsequently resulted in the closure of the Plant. IBM refused to allow us back into IBM - they had washed their hands of their loyal employees. IBM had recognized my years of faithful service with an offer of a 30% discount on a new Aptiva. IBM is now a company I would never want to work for. They are incompetent and charge outrageous fees. They treat their employees as expendible resource. I anticipate IBM will eventually go bankrupt because their core values have been decimated. The rot all began with Louis B. Gerstner and it hasn't stopped since. -Ex-IBMer from Wangaratta-
  • Pension Comments page
  • Raise and Salary Comments
    • Comment 12/22/08: Salary = 92K Base Band; Level = 8; Job Title = Accredited Sr. IT Specialist; Years Service = 3.5; Hours/Week = 40; Div Name = SWG; Location = NY; Message = Left IBM couple months ago. Some people in Management team have no idea of what they are doing, but I wouldn't say the whole company is bad for that reason. For such a huge company there ought to be some bad apples. I had very good manager all these years and as soon as my manager moved into a new role, I moved away from IBM. -Ex-IBMer-
    • Comment 12/24/08: Salary = 166,000; Band Level = 9; Job Title = software engineer; Years Service = 30+; Hours/Week = 40; Div Name = SWG; Location = midwest; Message = IBM has been fair to me. -bittwiddler-
    • Comment 12/29/08: Location : India; Salary : Rs 300000 per annum ~~ 6000 USD; Band : 6B; Years Service : 1; Job Title: Associate System Engineer; Hours : 40 per week; Unit : GBS - GD; Message: We are paid woefully. Almost every other company here pays more. No pay rise . Last year they laid off around 5000 of the total workforce of around 70000. This year I hear there will be a lot more here. Happy New Year. --
  • PBC Comments
  • International Comments
Vault Message Board Posts

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

  • "Remember the glory days?" by "wonderaboutibm". Full excerpt: This once was a very active board, bit the second to the last post is now 10 days old. A year ago it would have been a few hours ago? Did we just get tired? Did we say everything there was to say? Just asking...
  • "ran out of topics" by "Frank Cary". Full excerpt: or commentators. Maybe the Pig's Posse tracked down Dose and ABC and renditioned them to a secret desert base in western Egypt. Besides newbies wanting the inside scoop on the IBM Company, oldbies trying to relate their current Big4 status to something inside of 1BM, and bashing Southeast Asian trolls, what is there to talk about? One thing I've wondered, is the Peroxide Queen still around or did her success on the BoD of AIG lead to bigger and better things for her?
  • "Perhaps this board parallels the demise of IBM?" by "Who knows ? Certainly many topics have been re-worked and re-stated many a time, yet always with the same outcome and advice - a warning to the naive to stay away from IBM. Perhaps the tone of this board has been enough to keep those not only from the company but the board itself since it rarely has anything good to say of the company. Mind you, one can't help it if the company is such that you can't find much of any worth within it. ABC did post some interesting things though on those areas which were 'state of the art' such as the patent process."
  • "Anybody have a list?" by "consultant64". Full excerpt: Hi, I am contemplating applying for a job at IBM GBS, and the following phrase caught my eye, specifically: "Willingness to live in one of our 21 base-city locations and to travel up to 100% Monday through Friday to work at client sites." Does anyone know where I can find a list of these locations so I can make an informed decision? Thanks!
  • "Top Metro Areas" by "Premaria". Full excerpt: There is no real "list" but just look at the top 21-metropolitan areas (New York, Chicago, L.A., Boston, Atlanta, Houston, San Fran, Denver, etc.) and that will give you an idea. The most important thing is your access to a major airport because that's where you'll be spending most of your time.
  • "Level and Salary Advice" by "aua868s". Full excerpt: From previous posts in this forum, I understand that Consulting runs Level6 -->Level7--> Level8--> Level9-->Level 10. I am a senior SAP Consultant from SAP (yes, the parent company) with 4+ years of consulting experience. I hold an MBA as well. If I were to join IBM, what would be my level and also what salary could I expect. I am based out of Seattle. I know these questions would have been asked million times but I don't have access to those answers in this forum (because of 1 month deadline to access archives). Any valuable input is greatly appreciated. Regards.
  • "Probably Band 8" by "Premaria". Full excerpt: Are you SAP certified? Do you have expertise in a specific industry (Retail, Manufacturing, etc.)? You have 4+ years consulting but do you have any previous project management experience? Are you applying to work on a specific account in the Seattle area? All of these factors will determine your band level and salary. Sorry, I can't give you any advice on salary -- mine was too low after 18 years at IBM so I left.
  • 'New enthusiastic employee - "Grad IT Specialist"' by "RMC2009". Full excerpt: Hello There, I was wondering if some one can provide me more information about working in IBM Australia. I am going to start as a Grad. IT Specialist. I suppose I will be starting in Band 6 and then will have to work for 2 years without expecting any salary raise or promotion. However, after two years, if my performance is good enough, expecting a raise in both areas is obvious and it shouldn't be too unpractical to get either? IT Specialist is more of a technical role then Consultancy? Regards.
  • "IT Specialist" by "Frank_Reality". Full excerpt: IT specialists are typically hands-on, nuts and bolts, technical implementation people. IT architects are usually into the design and structure of an IT solution including selection of hardware and software products. IT consultants are even more general than IT architects. So yes, a specialist is more heavily into a specific technology than a consultant. In the real world though there may be significant overlap, particularly with architects vs. specialists. You're correct about the band 6 and 2 years without a raise or promotion. Unfortunately, it likely will be significantly longer than that. I know productive and effective new hires that have gone 5+ years without a salary increase of any kind - and that was before the global economy went ugly. With IBM offshoring everything they can to minimal cost countries without regard to quality and productivity, a long term career at IBM in IT is also unlikely. Good luck to you
  • "Possible raises" by "Scouter1". Full excerpt: I have 5 band 6 / 7's working for me, college hires - they have all received nominal raises the last 2 or 3 years, they've been in the business (U.S.) - one was promoted from 6 to 7 after 3 years - a couple of the others may be promoted this year - a couple things important to receiving a promotion - first Project Assessments (PA) - they drive your PBC rating and you'll need to be a 2+ - maybe not year 1 - but year 2 and 3 - second PDFA level - you'll need to get to a 3 - once again the PA's (Competency section) will determine whether you can get to a 3.
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.

This site is designed to allow IBM Employees to communicate and share methods of protecting their rights through the establishment of an IBM Employees Labor Union. Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act states it is a violation for Employers to spy on union gatherings, or pretend to spy. For the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act, notice is given that this site and all of its content, messages, communications, or other content is considered to be a union gathering.