Talk of massive layoffs at struggling tech giant IBM hit the halls of Big Blue in Rochester today.
Lee Conrad, national coordinator of the pro-union group Alliance@IBM, said this morning that layoffs were being reported on IBM's campuses in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. However, he had not heard of any in Rochester.
"It going to be a bad day for IBM employees and their families," Conrad said.
While no layoffs could be confirmed on the Rochester campus, IBM did concede this week that "several thousand" job cuts were coming as it refuted a Forbes column claiming 26 percent of the firm's employees would be laid off.
"IBM does not comment on rumors, even ridiculous or baseless ones," said IBM spokesman Doug Shelton. "If anyone had checked information readily available from our public earnings statements, or had simply asked us, they would know that IBM has already announced the company has just taken a $600 million charge for workforce rebalancing. This equates to several thousand people, a small fraction of what's been reported."
Shelton's comments were in reaction to a Forbes article by tech columnist Robert X. Cringely. Cringely recently reported IBM planned to lay off 26 percent of its workforce, about 110,000 people, in an operation codenamed "Project Chrome."
"I’ve been hearing since before Christmas about Project Chrome, the code name for what has been touted to me as the biggest reorganization in IBM history. Well, Project Chrome is finally upon us, triggered I suppose by this week’s announcement of an 11th consecutive quarter of declining revenue for IBM. Project Chrome is bad news, not good. Customers and employees alike should expect the worst," he wrote.
Alliance@IBM, put out a statement that it did not believe the layoffs would be as extensive as Cringley is predicting.
"The Alliance has no information that this is true, and we are urging caution on reporting this number as fact. But as you all know, anything can happen at IBM anymore, and this is the time of year that IBM cuts jobs," Conrad wrote.
He followed that note with another one on Tuesday, which said inside sources were saying this round of layoffs would occur today and Thursday.
In recent years, IBM has dramatically reduced its presence in Rochester. Once topping out at more than 8,000 employees in the 1990s, an unofficial data "snapshot" calculated 2,300 full-time IBM employees working in Rochester today.
Since 2008, IBM has refused to release specific employee numbers at its campuses. However, it is still considered Rochester's second-largest private employer.
IBM Rochester has emptied several buildings on its campus and leased them to tenants such as Charter Communications and HGST.