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IBM celebrates 100th birthday as workers send video calling for improved conditions

Warwick Ashford

International Business Machines (IBM) is celebrating its 100th birthday, founded as the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation through a merger of four companies in 1911.

The American multinational technology and consulting firm headquartered in Armonk, New York, switched to the name IBM in 1924.

As one of the longest established suppliers of hardware, software, infrastructure, hosting and consulting services, IBM is widely considered the grandfather of computing.

 

Unions send IBM video birthday card

However, not all IBM employees are celebrating the company's centennial without reservation. To mark the occasion, IBM union members have produced a happy birthday video in which they tell the company to treat its workers better in its next century.

IBM unions from around the world have come together to form the IBM Global Union Alliance through the International Metalworkers' Federation, European Metalworkers' Federation and UNI Global Union. The unionists are demanding IBM respects worker and trade union rights wherever it operates.

On June 14, IBM unions around the world will be uniting in common action to call on the company to recognise the vital role played by IBM workers in the company's success and to respect their rights as workers.

In the US, IBM employees and members of Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701 will wear black and blue to call attention to job cuts and deteriorating work conditions.

Despite the company's early history of valuing its workforce, the unions say IBM has recently taken to systematically denying employees' their basic rights.

"Wherever it can, IBM fights the right of employees to choose to join a union. It has also denied employees in some countries pay raises that keep pace with increases in the cost of living," said Tom Midgley, president of the Alliance@IBM CWA Local 1701.

"In the US, job cuts are constant. IBM hides that fact, as well as the numbers of jobs cut, from other employees, communities, elected officials and the media," Tom Midgley said.

Midgley claims IBM is off-shoring work at a record pace and sending loyal IBM workers to the unemployment line.

"The more than 15,000 ex-employees terminated in the past few years and the thousands more fearing future job loss and declining working conditions will not have the spirit of celebration IBM executives are hoping for," Midgley said.

 

Union letter to IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano

Last year, global unions sent IBM chief executive Sam Palmisano a letter alerting him to management's violations of the labour code in Bulgaria. The unions say IBM threatened workers who tried to form a union, and IBM refused to recognise the union as it is legally obliged to do. The global unions asked Sam Palmisano to intervene.

The global unions claim no reply has been received, and have written to Palmisano again. The IBM unions reminded him that working conditions at IBM vary greatly depending in the world and asked Palmisano to discuss how to improve IBM's performance on worker rights.

"While it is in the top league in many international business rankings, IBM ranks near the bottom of the list when it comes to working conditions. This must change as IBM enters its second century of operations," says Midgley.

IBM employees and their unions today celebrate the contributions made by employees to the company's success, and call upon IBM to reciprocate by fully recognising the basic rights of its workforce, the unions said in a statement.

The company has responded by saying IBM has respected, and continues to respect, employees' legal rights to join or refrain from joining worker organisations, including labour organisations or trade unions.

"The company's long-standing belief is that the interests of IBM and its employees are best served through a favourable, collaborative work environment with direct communication between employees and management," IBM said.


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