IBM workers across Europe denounce management’s unjustified recourse to mass layoffs

Monday 19 April 2021

IBM workers and their unions from across Europe are taking part in a joint day of action to protest management’s move to cut 10,000 jobs. While workers brought in over €60 billion in revenue last year and increased profit margins during the pandemic, the corporation’s management have announced mass layoffs across Europe.

As part of the day of action, 26 unions from 16 countries have jointly written to IBM’s European management. In the letter, unions are highlight the bewildering lack of transparency that has shrouded the move, which management have officially dubbed “operation sunrise”. Neither has the need for such drastic measures been evidenced to workers’ representatives, nor have objective criteria for determining which workers will be fired been clarified.

Negotiations between management and workers’ representatives are ongoing but tensions are mounting. In response to the lack of clarity, unions have called coordinated workplace actions under the banner #NoSunsetForIBMers. The corporation employs roughly 90,000 workers, and the unprecedented scale of the layoffs would result in 1 in 9 workers losing their job.

During the pandemic, IBM has won a number of high profile public tenders from EU governments. Last month, it won a tender by the German government to develop the country’s digital vaccine certificate system. It is one of the few companies to have benefitted from increased demand during the Covid-19 period, further raising questions about the timing of the move.

“IBM workers have shown incredible adaptiveness and resilience. Over the past year, many have juggled work life from home with increasing domestic responsibilities as schools have closed. It is remarkable that they have done all this while still keeping the company’s profits and revenues high. Rather than recognise that, management has moved to fire large numbers of the workers who kept the company going. This sends the completely wrong message and could ignite major internal tensions,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.

“Losing your job at this time of uncertainty can have a severely destabilising impact on your life and on your family. Losing 10,000 jobs at this moment would have ripple effects throughout our economies. When there are so many unanswered questions, this is an unjustified human and social cost. Government contracts are shoring up this corporation’s profits. What do our governments get in return? Layoffs which will only add to unemployment. This is a deeply irresponsible move by IBM’s European management for which we have yet to see any concrete justification.”

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