This morning I learned that many, many of my ex-IBMer friends all lost their jobs this past week. Very sad news, indeed. It was told to me that over 100 IBM Canada staff lost their jobs. A very painful situation for those employees and my heart goes out to them.
IBM has started firing thousands of employees, to save costs and to maintain their profits. As per some reports, entire teams working in enterprise Cloud, Artificial Intelligence and even teams working for Watson, their supercomputer has been terminated.
Where are these terminations and layoffs in IBM happening? It seems to be widespread and globally. Canada, USA, and India seem to all be hit very hard. But, actual numbers of terminations are hard to know as IBM seems to be able to keep it all secret.
As per available information, the majority of the layoffs in the USA happened across Pennsylvania, California, Missouri and New York states, where IBM have huge campuses, and thousands of employees from these locations have been asked to resign.
During this layoff, the designation, experience and skill-sets have not been considered, it seems. Employees who have been working with IBM for the last 20 years have been asked to leave.
A North Caroline based worker, whose entire team of 12 employees have been axed, said, “This was far ranging — and historical employment ratings, age and seniority did not seem to matter”.
When it happened to me last year, when IBM was strategically shedding older workers, it was hard to understand. These are also the higher paid workers but also the most experienced and productive employees. It is a travesty that major corporations are freely allowed by the regulators to strategically eliminate specifically targeted workers by demographic categories. They always creep under the regulations and avoid making public disclosures as it is not deemed to be material to the shareholders. But, believe me, it is definitely material to the workers who are terminated. Is it illegal? No, it is not. I would assume that IBM’s Legal Department has cleverly crafted these mass terminations correctly to remain in-bounds of the law.
Is it unethical? I feel that it is and needs to be addressed.
While COVID-19 has forever changed our world, and seriously and negatively impacted businesses of all sizes, large and small, it does not make the situation tolerable. It hurts and it dramatically effects households when families are facing their futures in this age of uncertainty.
Companies definitely have a right to reshape their businesses to map to this new reality.
Unfortunately, it is the way that they go about it that makes it so brutal and hurtful. They use the “rip the bandage off fast approach”. I was terminated last July and the whole process lasted less then 5 minutes. So, much for the 15 years of valued employee rhetoric that they repeated over and over again. Clearly my service to the company were never considered when it takes them just 5 minutes for them to end it all.
Thousands of small businesses in Ontario may be inadvertently breaking the law when they lay off their employees due to COVID-19 slowdowns or closures, according to an employment expert.
Toronto employment lawyer Stuart Rudner told the Star that many businesses don’t have the right to lay their employees off, and he thinks there may be a wave of wrongful dismissal lawsuits in the coming weeks or months.
“People don’t realize what they’re doing at this point,” he said.
Most provinces, including Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec, have laws that allow temporary layoffs, meaning businesses can lay off their employees without paying them severance, but only for a certain period of time — and only if there’s a layoff clause in their employment contract.
The time limit varies by province: In Ontario, it’s 13 weeks, or in some cases up to 35 if the employer continues to pay their employees’ benefits, Rudner said. If the employee still can’t return to work after that time has passed, they have been effectively terminated and are owed severance pay.
Now, IBM is not the only major corporation facing these challenges and they do have to right-size the business for the next new fiscal reality. I have heard similar horror stories from friends at many other major employers. These are indeed harsh times.
But, what is next for these workers? Getting work after 50 years old is a very hard task.
Even consulting is currently off the table, as the entire “gig society” has vaporized due to COVID-19. Hopefully subcontract work will be possible in the next years. Who knows, maybe the subcontractor will be the new normal for a few years. Fingers crossed.
When I was released last year, many of my work colleagues went out of their way to avoid contact with me. I felt like the walking dead. I puzzled over this alienation. It was like I died.
Maybe they just did not know what to say? Maybe they wanted to keep their own heads down? Maybe they were happy to see me go? I am not sure what their reasons were, but surviving a major round of terminations carries a lot of ‘survivor guilt’ for those who remain.
This time, I want it to be different. At least from my personal perspective. I hope to reach out with this post and offer my support and help to any of these terminated IBMers. Those of us who have gone before can help those who follow. So, I am here for you if you desire to talk, ask questions, vent, or seek advice about what to do next. I promise no miracles, but I do offer a friendly ear to listen, if that is all that you need. Just message me.
Welcome to the club. But, do not fear it. There are definitely better days ahead. It is hard to imagine now, but life does improve over time.
The next great adventure lies ahead for us all. Yes, it will be challenging, difficult, scary, and stressful. But, life goes on, and with it comes joy, fun, laughter, and many good things too.
“It will be alright in the end. And, if it is not yet alright, then it is not yet the end.”
Ghosh, M. (2020). IBM’s Indian CEO Fires Thousands Of Employees; Even Artificial Intelligence Teams Are Killed. Trak.in. Retrieved on May 27, 2020 from, https://www.google.ca/amp/s/trak.in/tags/business/2020/05/23/ibms-indian-ceo-fires-thousands-of-employees-even-artificial-intelligence-teams-are-killed/amp/
Saba, R. (2020). Thousands of businesses may be breaking the law when they lay off employees, expert says. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. Retrieved on May 27, 2020 from, https://www.thestar.com/business/2020/03/24/thousands-of-businesses-may-be-breaking-the-law-when-they-lay-off-employees-expert-says.html
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.
He is a business and technology consultant. He offers his services on a contracting basis. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.