IBM workers fight plans to move jobs offshore

The US labour union representing a growing number of IBM employees is considering taking action against the company's reported...

The US labour union representing a growing number of IBM employees is considering taking action against the company's reported plan to move nearly 5,000 jobs offshore.

"We are working with our members to organise to fight this any way we can," said Linda Guyer, president of Alliance@IBM, a union of about 6,000 IBM workers. "We think it's not only unfair to the employees, it's unfair to the US economy."

IBM plans to move up to 4,730 programming jobs from the US to India, China and other countries, according to a report published in The Wall Street Journal.

IBM officials said that "the vast majority of the growth in application services that will occur in markets such as India, China and Latin America, will result from winning new contracts, especially in high-growth areas such as business transformation outsourcing".

IBM also said, "We expect our hiring next year in the US to equal or increase over 2003 levels. In fact, on a percentage basis, our forecast is for hiring across the Americas to outpace the hiring in the rest of the world."

Guyer said the union has heard from its own sources that as many as 30,000 US jobs may move overseas over the next two years.

IBM employs some 150,000 people in the US and more than 315,000 worldwide.

Guyer said the union may recommend that affected employees not train their replacement workers. Such a move could put any severance the employee receives at risk.

But Guyer said, "People have to decide what's important to them. Are they going to let themselves be walked all over for a few thousand dollars, or are they going to fight this? If we start fighting it, IBM's got to sit up and take notice."

The union is also working with other high-tech labour groups for federal legislation that would slow the pace of offshore outsourcing.

The plans will affect programmers in IBM's global services division.

During the first half of next year, IBM will inform 947 US employees that their work will be moving overseas. An additional 3,700 US jobs have been identified as having the "potential to move offshore".

The 947 workers will be informed of the changes in the first half of next year, some by as early as the end of January, and will be asked to train their replacements, who will be workers from overseas. They will have 60 days to find another job within IBM.

Patrick Thibodeau writes for Computerworld

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