IBM Managers Discussed Ways to Thin Older Ranks, Documents Say

IBM managers discussed ways to make the company’s workforce younger and move jobs overseas, according to Bloomberg.

The documents are at a center of a lawsuit against IBM by a former executive who says he was fired based on his age. A person familiar with the filings said IBM couldn’t verify whether the documents were real. The presentation filed in December outlines a proposal to “correct seniority mix.” It also purports to detail how IBM could “lift and shift” jobs from its main markets in developed countries to places such as Costa Rica and India.

The former employee asked the court to compel IBM to produce the remaining portions of the documents. “IBM has never said that the requested, damning documents do not exist; it just refuses to produce them in an attempt to hide the man behind the curtain,” the former employee argues in a motion filed Jan. 4.

IBM has been quietly firing people for years, even as Chief Executive Officer Ginni Rometty publicly vowed to hire about 25,000 workers in the U.S. Her hiring pledge, made in late 2016 on the eve of a summit between technology executives and then President-elect Donald Trump, sparked outrage among current and former IBM workers, who vented on message boards and Facebook groups.

IBM said the lawsuit “misses the point” since colleagues who were older than the employee were retained on the team. “That’s because IBM makes its employment decisions based on skills and business conditions, not age,” said Ed Barbini, an IBM spokesman. “In fact, since 2010 there is no difference in the age of our U.S. workforce, but the skills profile of our employees has changed dramatically due to our heavy investments in skills and retraining.”

IBM’s workforce shrunk by 54,000 from the end of 2012 through the end of 2017 as the company let go of people in the U.S., Canada and other high-wage jurisdictions in an effort to cut costs after missing out on the early stages of the cloud-computing and mobile-technology revolutions. IBM now is reported to have more employees in India than in the U.S.

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