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IBM's Project Match Draws Criticism


With the huge number of layoffs across the country, there are some difficult e-mails going around. We've seen some of them at NPR: sad goodbyes, cryptic all-staff memos. Well, at the offices of IBM, a memo called Project Match is a little different. It's a program to help employees who are losing their jobs at IBM in the U.S. to find opportunities with the company abroad.

The exotic destinations include India, Nigeria, Brazil. IBM's guiding principle may be if your job gets outsourced, consider going to the source. Well, to find out more, we're joined now by Julie Moran Alterio, who covers IBM for The Journal News in the Lower Hudson Valley. And she joins us from Westchester County, New York. Welcome to the program.


Ms. JULIE MORAN ALTERIO (The Journal News): Thanks very much, glad to be here.

SIEGEL: And tell us a bit about the layoffs at IBM in the past few months. How many people have actually lost their jobs?

Ms. ALTERIO: Well, the best estimate is about 4,000 people. We don't know for sure, because the company is not saying, but a group that's trying to unionize has been collecting statements from workers who have been let go. That seems to indicate it's over 4,000 jobs.

SIEGEL: And this leaked memo, Project Match, what's actually on offer?

Ms. ALTERIO: Well, it's very interesting. IBM has always offered employees an opportunity to apply for other jobs within the company in the United States when they were let go. Now they're encouraging laid-off workers in the United States and Canada to relocate abroad to developing countries, as you mentioned, like India, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Slovakia.


SIEGEL: Now, I gather that one of the unofficial unions at IBM, Alliance at IBM, is apparently furious about this. What do they say?

Ms. ALTERIO: Well, you know, they are, and they're shocked. You know, the comment I got was pretty revealing. He said, we hear a lot about companies offshoring jobs and shifting work to other countries. This is the first time they've seen a company encourage employees to offshore themselves. And the key element here that I think is important to know in why they're getting the criticism is that these jobs are being offered at prevailing wages and conditions in those countries.

What you're doing is you're moving there. This is considered a move that might, in fact, be permanent, and you'll be making the wages there. And in a country like India, you could be maybe making a quarter of what you're making in the U.S.

SIEGEL: Is there any sense of gratitude at all that IBM's trying to do something for these people who are being laid off?

Ms. ALTERIO: Well, you know, some the employment experts say it's a really creative approach. And IBM is offering a lot of assistance to workers who do want to make this move. They're going to help them with their visa applications to be allowed to working in these foreign countries. They're going to actually pay for the move. And this is not an inconsiderable benefit when you're talking about moving to the other side of the world. Now, obviously, these are laid- off workers, so they might choose to look for other jobs at competitors of IBM, but this is something IBM is offering.

SIEGEL: Well, thanks for talking with us about the story.

Ms. ALTERIO: Thanks very much.

SIEGEL: That's Julie Moran Alterio, who covers for IBM for The Journal News newspaper in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York state. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.