A significant workforce rebalancing action in Europe was presented at the Extraordinary Meeting on March 7th 2017. The total foreseen headcount impact of this reduction lies well below last year’s downsizing number and comprises around 25% of the total target for 2016. The impact of the current workforce rebalancing action varies by country and can on average be described best as a low single digit reduction. Primarily the CEE region and a selection of Western-European countries are in scope. It was explained that the current selection is a direct result of the legal and financial flexibility in these countries, where in many cases involuntary separations with limited payments and short pay back times can be made.
The EWC observes that the main impact of this rebalancing is felt at the Globally Integrated Enterprise Support Staff (GIESS) units across Europe, where especially in the Enterprise Services organisation many jobs are at stake. The EWC is furthermore concerned about headcount reductions in IBM’s strategic growth areas, i.e. CAMSS and Digital. The EWC calls upon IBM management to maintain staffing levels intact, particularly in these areas, even when the business develops erratically. The membership believes that it is worthwhile to invest in re- and up-skilling for experienced CAMSS employees and make them even better, rather than to simply dismiss them. Continued and growing investments in enlarging the CAMSS expertise of IBMers and supporting their visibility and the company’s footprint in the market, is regarded as necessary and consistent with IBM’s strategy.
VP HR and EWC Chairman Alan Wild made it clear that the current selection of countries and missions does in no way mean that there is no need for headcount optimisations in countries and missions not in scope today. “Other approaches should be developed and applied there”, he stated. “And if Europe delivers the business results that the Corporation expects from us, no additional restructuring will be required this year”.
Over the past months IBM announced to move away from its more ‘traditional restructuring actions’ focusing on simply cutting jobs, towards a ‘job-to-job’ approach which primarily aims at more ‘innovative and constructive approaches’ to optimise staffing levels around Europe. The general idea of re- and up- skilling employees in IBM’s strategic growth areas, ensuring their internal redeployment and thus avoiding downsizing, is overall well received. At the same time the EWC membership observes that local discussions and negotiations about country specific approaches take off very slowly or have not even started at all.
Depending on these local specifics, the EWC believes that local employee representatives should be involved proactively in designing the best solutions possible and IBM management should be truly open to their input and creativity. The EWC observes that in several countries IBM management is just reactive and is setting restrictive boundaries which are hindering open and constructive discussions. The EWC calls upon IBM management to recognise that new solutions require investments on both sides, instead of using them as a means to cut costs.
The EWC does not understand why IBM is not already investing the current restructuring budget in developing and designing more constructive and sustainable approaches for all European countries and abandoning traditional, involuntary restructuring. Choosing this again for a short term optimisation is regarded as a missed opportunity. The EWC calls upon IBM management to ensure fair and voluntary packages for all countries currently in scope, in line with the company’s principles. Paying the bare minimum triggers negative sentiments amongst IBM employees and affects both their engagement and the company’s brand image and reputation. It is in the best interests of IBM that its employees leave as ambassadors, not as future enemies.
The EWC requests IBM management to continue the dialogue on the current resource actions and to provide regular status updates, to give additional insight in the business case and rationale, to make employees aware of the ‘hot’ and strategic skills, job roles and job families and actively to engage them in re- and up-skilling programs. The EWC observed that in several countries in scope the local consultation procedures started already well before the EWC membership was informed and consulted; this is regarded as not supportive to Section X of the EWC Agreement which describes that information should be shared with the EWC earlier or at the same time as with national employee representative bodies.
IBM European Works Council, Copenhagen – 8th March, 2017