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2/2/2009
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IBM Offers To Move Laid Off Workers To India

Big Blue wants to help redundant U.S. employees relocate to developing markets, according to an internal document.

The climate is warm, there's no shortage of exotic food, and the cost of living is rock bottom. That's IBM's pitch to the laid-off American workers it's offering to place in India. The catch: Wages in the country are pennies-on-the-dollar compared to U.S. salaries.

Under a program called Project Match, IBM will help workers laid off from domestic sites obtain travel and visa assistance for countries in which Big Blue has openings. Mostly that's developing markets like India, China, and Brazil.

"IBM has established Project Match to help you locate potential job opportunities in growth markets where your skills are in demand," IBM says in an internal notice on the initiative. "Should you accept a position in one of these countries, IBM offers financial assistance to offset moving costs, provides immigration support, such as visa assistance, and other support to help ease the transition of an international move."

The document states that the program is limited to "satisfactory performers who have been notified of separation from IBM U.S. or Canada and are willing to work on local terms and conditions." The latter indicates that workers will be paid according to prevailing norms in the countries to which they relocate. In many cases, that could be substantially less than what they earned in North America.

IBM has laid off more than 4,000 workers in the United States since the beginning of January, according to an employee group. The company has confirmed layoffs but won't comment on specific numbers.

A spokesman for Alliance@IBM, a workers' group that's affiliated with the Communications Workers of America but which does not have official union status at IBM, slammed the program. "IBM is not only offshoring IBM U.S. jobs but they want employees to offshore themselves through Project Match," said the spokesman.

An IBM spokesman said the program shouldn't be seen in that light. "It's more of a vehicle for people who want to expand their life experience by working somewhere else," said the spokesman. "A lot of people want to work in India."

In addition to India, China, and Brazil, IBM is offering to relocate redundant U.S. workers to a number of other developing markets, including Mexico, the Czech Republic, Russia, South Africa, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates, according to the notice, which was obtained Monday by InformationWeek.

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