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IBM Denies Layoff Size As Salesforce CEO Woos Talent

IBM called reports that it is laying off a third of its workforce "outlandish and untrue." That's not stopping Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff from publicly inviting IBM employees to apply for open posts at his firm.
7 Tech Jobs Hardest Hit By Layoffs In 2015
7 Tech Jobs Hardest Hit By Layoffs In 2015
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Responding to reports that IBM is laying off up to a third of its US workforce, an executive at the company has reached out to InformationWeek to deny those claims.

"The notion that IBM is laying off a third of its workforce, in the US or anywhere else, is completely outlandish and untrue," said IBM communications VP Ian Colley in an email to InformationWeek. While denying that cuts are hitting a third of the workforce, Colley declined to provide actual headcount numbers in relation to this wave of job cuts.

That's not a surprise. In recent years IBM has declined to reveal any actual headcount numbers in layoffs.

Confirmation that the cuts had begun came last week from Lee Conrad, a former IBM employee himself, who once ran the now defunct [email protected] union-organizing effort. Conrad now heads the Watching IBM page on Facebook. He told InformationWeek he'd received hundreds of emails and hundreds of messages last week from affected workers.

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Conrad said he's hearing more reports this week as IBM workers discover the new Facebook page. He told InformationWeek that last week's cuts happened on March 2 and March 3. Conrad is expecting more reports of job cuts this week, this time from employees in Australia.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff reached out to IBM employees in several tweets, inviting them to send him their resumes.

"No one I know realized just how bad things are @IBM. I hope they will be more open to partnerships now," Benioff tweeted. He provided the email address [email protected] for laid-off IBM employees to use when sending their resumes to Salesforce.

In an email exchange with InformationWeek, IBM's Colley highlighted IBM's hiring efforts for the 25,000 positions he said are open at IBM. Colley noted in his email that "a significant number of them are in the US," but declined to provide a percentage or actual number of US-based job openings.

"Here in the US, for example, we are hiring aggressively as we open new facilities such as Watson West in San Francisco and Watson Health in Boston," he told InformationWeek via email. "We are also creating five new services hubs in major US cities."

Colley said via email that IBM also now employs several thousand healthcare specialists, and is working to attract Millennials, medical doctors, anthropologists, and new kinds of data scientists as employees.

In a statement provided by IBM to InformationWeek last week, the company said, "IBM is aggressively transforming its business to lead in a new era of cognitive and cloud computing. This includes remixing skills to meet client requirements."

IBM said that it had hired 77,000 last year. However, the year-over-year employee numbers reported in its 10-K filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission show the headcount for total employees declined by about 2,000 between year-end 2014 and year-end 2015. IBM ended fiscal 2015 with 377,757 employees, according to the company's 10-K report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, down from 379,592 in 2014. That means about 79,000 left the company during the same period, either in a layoff, a firing, or a voluntary departure. 

Colley also said in an email to InformationWeek that IBM's 2006 employee number was 355,000. InformationWeek reported last week that a February report from financial analyst firm Bernstein noted that IBM has taken nearly $7 billion in workforce reduction charges since 2006, translating into what the analyst firm believes is an estimated gross headcount reduction of 90,000 to 100,000 jobs over that period of time.