back to article What's Big and Blue – and makes its veteran staff sue? Yep, it's IBM

IBM once again finds itself the target of age discrimination complaints from workers who claim they were unfairly laid off just because of their age. A lawsuit – filed in a US district court in southern New York, where Big Blue is based – accuses the tech titan of violating California and North Carolina age discrimination laws …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I expect this has plenty more to do with salary than age.

    I'm also interested that somebody born in 1978 is now classed as a baby boomer.

    1. Michael Hoffmann
      Thumb Up

      If 1978 is now baby boomer...

      ... then I'm now part of the Greatest Generation! Brilliant!

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Boffin

      Ignorant Bl**dy Muppets

      >>>generations X and Y are generally much more innovative and receptive to technology than baby boomers<<<

      Boomers (& older) invented the computer age and most of the technology in use today working from first principles in Maths, Physics & Chemistry and without the help of advanced computers to do it!

      As a Gen X I've always been amazed at what was achieved with slide rules and hard thinking.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I expect this has plenty more to do with salary than age.

      Definitely. The bottom line rules the boardroom. It's not about "tech" as people who have worked on legacy systems were being let go in favor of younger workers to replace them. The IBM defense is BS and everyone knows it.

      1. A.P. Veening

        The bottom line rules the boardroom.

        Also known as spreadsheet management.

      2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        "The IBM defense is BS and everyone knows it."

        Not disagreeing - but if this is the case, then the complaint is BS too - it's really about the money not the age.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't forget "And such transformations can yield substantial and permanent incremental capabilities and increases in productivity."

        Curiously enough, despite this remarkable and valuable insight, IBM's shares have systematically underperformed the NASDAQ index for the last three decades since 1977. And more recently, over the last five years IBM shares lost 21% of their value (even before inflation), whereas the NASDAQ gained 109%.

        Which would confirm that IBM consultants were talking out of their arses, which will come as no surprise to most round here. Why would anybody commission such a dreadfully run company to tell them how to do anything?

        1. paulf Silver badge
          Alert

          @Ledswinger, "Why would anybody commission such a dreadfully run company to tell them how to do anything?"

          Oddly enough IBM seem pretty popular among dreadfully run companies, so there could be a link:

          Lloyds finally inks mega 10-year cloudy outsourcing deal with IBM

          Who will fix our Internal Banking Mess? TSB hires IBM amid online banking woes

          Revealed: British Airways was in talks with IBM on outsourcing security just before hack

        2. nerdbert
          FAIL

          And more recently, over the last five years IBM shares lost 21% of their value (even before inflation), whereas the NASDAQ gained 109%.

          May I point out that over those same 5 years IBM bought back almost 20% of their shares, too? Without their stock buyback plan, the stock would have performed even more abysmally.

          I know that stock buyback plans are popular with investors, but they're also an admission by management that they really don't know how to use the money they have on hand to drum up new business. In IBM's case, that little bit of financial engineering has become their bread and butter since the corporate finance guys booted the tech guys out of the company leadership in the early 80s. Is it any wonder the company has gone downhill since then?

      4. TVU Silver badge

        "Definitely. The bottom line rules the boardroom. It's not about "tech" as people who have worked on legacy systems were being let go in favor of younger workers to replace them. The IBM defense is BS and everyone knows it"

        ...and in which case, I sincerely hope that the courts see through that synthetic ruse and inflict punitive settlements on IBM not least to deter others from taking the same route.

    4. PassingStrange

      >I expect this has plenty more to do with salary than age.

      Quite probably. IBM's been all about the bottom line, the share price and the Board's stock options (not necessarily in that order) for the last 30 years. Unfortunately for IBM, that doesn't work as an excuse (or certainly not in the UK here, at least). It doesn't matter what your primary motivation was; if the effect is discriminatory, it's illegal.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        IBM's been all about the share price ... for the last 30 years.

        Then the management should have shut down and invested the money in an SP500 fund.

        In fact they could have invested in anything short of Beanie-Babies and done better

  2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Not Surprised

    Itsy Bitsy Morons is run some very dim PHBs. There is a serious, hidden problem when canning older workers: loss of institutional memory. New hires do not the back story of why something was 10 or more years ago. And a lot of tech is really based on 30+ year old designs. Having someone who knows why it was done that way can be great help in understanding. Another issue with trying to be 'hip' is the is very ephemeral as what is 'hip' today is passe tomorrow.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Not Surprised

      Yep. I remember when I first worked at IBM Hursley hearing a couple of old farts discussing an urgent customer issue with CICS. One of them was saying something like "I remember this same problem coming up about 30 years ago." I daresay they then went and fixed the problem.

      Customer loyalty requires loyal staff. IBM seems to have forgotten that.

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: Not Surprised

        This is the principle of Chesterton's Fence:

        In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

        Get rid of all your longer-serving staff and you've lost all knowledge as to why the fence was originally built.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not Surprised

        Customer loyalty requires loyal staff. IBM seems to have forgotten that.

        No longer matters. IBM are merely a middle of the road commodity outsourcer attached to a historic brand. So cost cutting and low-ball quotes are all that matter up front, then the outsourcing game is to provide a crap service, ream out the clients if they make ANY changes because they're locked in for several years, and accept that a lot of clients churn out.

        Because other outsourcers do the same, there's always people churning out from competitors, who haven't used IBM before, and delude themselves that the experience will be different. Pillaging the customers is more important than providing a good service and building loyalty.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not Surprised

          > low-ball quotes are all that matter up front, then the outsourcing game is to provide a crap service, ream out the clients if they make ANY changes because they're locked in for several years

          Been there. A former employer brought IBM in take over all the data center operations--migrating nearly everything into Blue data centers--and then canning everyone involved with those data centers and the servers. Well, except for a few clusters that IBM couldn't find anyone in-house to manage so I was contracted to do that. Because of the brain drain that the outsourcing caused, migrating all the applications that been hosted locally to work in IBM's environment along with the ones I was contracted to manage took nearly four years--of a seven year contract--to complete. None of the few that IBM chose to hire as contractors were allowed to do anything related to the migration process despite having years of experience with the systems, applications, and end-users within the company. Gawd forbid we might do something without IBM being able to bill separately for it. Everything about the existing systems and applications being migrated was being learned from square one by the IBM people assigned to the tasks. Even before the four years had passed, the people in management that championed the outsourcing were gone--including the CIO. All were escorted from the building by security. There were a significant number of people that weren't let go as a direct result of the outsourcing who left the company in frustration because of the effect that this move had on the rest of the company. And, years later, everything's coming back in-house.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not Surprised

      There is a serious, hidden problem when canning older workers

      Having worked for companies that were pulling IT systems back in-house from IBM after ten years, most the passed over knowledge was long-gone, and this was before the IBM lay-off-palooza.

      The handed-over documentation had been shelved and not kept up-to-date, the outgoing staff had checked out or bogged off (though I can't blame them) and the business side had only a magical thinking interpretation of what went on.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Not Surprised

      The tech may be current, but the problems are the same.

      Older workers have solved the same problems before, using different tech. You pay them not to make the same mistakes again. The younger worker wil implement a sort routine with bubble sort; the older worker will know to use something more efficient.

    4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Not Surprised

      canning older workers: loss of institutional memory

      But IBM's income all comes from surfing the next techno-innovation wave of cyber goodness.

      It's not like they have any business in legacy government mainframe projects.

      I definitely want a 21year old Ruby bootcamp rockstar in charge of the air traffic control system - after all they grew up with an iPad so are digital natives.

  3. Andy Mac
    Holmes

    Surely the logical follow on from that paper is one in five years saying how Millennials and Gen Z are innovative and open to ideas while Gen X is stuffy and stuck in their ways. And in another 15 years telling us how out of touch Millenials are.

    1. find users who cut cat tail
      Coat

      > in another 15 years telling us how out of touch Millenials are

      Don't need 15 years for that...

  4. rbf

    Not just IBM and not just in the last few years

    I got downsized at 55 in 2001 along with a number of other similarly aged employees, only to see my former employer advertising open positions a few months later at lower salaries.

    Skills? I picked up relational database and a couple new languages in my last couple years with that employer in my usual way - by picking up the manuals and getting on with the job.

    Plus I had just delivered a project on time and budget. But it conflicted with a corporate fantasy that took several years and tens of millions more to deliver.

  5. cd

    IBM itself is old and overpriced.

  6. Dagg

    What about the knowledge.

    Seriously, these oldies have a considerable amount of collective knowledge and IBM by getting ride of them will just lose that knowledge. Ha Ha.

    I'm in a mixed team of oldies and young ones, the number of times I've seen a problem come up that completely stumps the youngsters that I've been there are got the scars from first time around.

    Latest little stuff up a couple of the youngsters needed to know when records were deleted. No problem they added a table to track these. Went into production a year later this tracking table has nearly tripled the size of the database. Youngsters didn't think to add any cleanup code. It turns out that tracking data was only needed for less than a month. Doh!

  7. sloshnmosh

    "systematically targeted"

    IBM does have a history of this.

    So the elder employees received their punchcards, yes?

    1. ps2os2
      Unhappy

      Re: "systematically targeted"

      Yes, 9 edge face down.

      1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: "systematically targeted"

        You young pups.

        It's "FACE DOWN, 9 EDGE FIRST"

        1. earl grey Silver badge
          WTF?

          Re: "systematically targeted"

          "It's "FACE DOWN, 9 EDGE FIRST""

          Unless it's one of the 51 column readers with the extra bars on the ramp and then it's 12 edge first and face up. You had to be there.

  8. ps2os2

    Agism at IBM

    Yes, 9 edge face down.

  9. Baudwalk

    Here's a thought...

    ...if IBM youngins are "more innovative and receptive to technology than baby boomers", it might have something to do with the IBM of yore, that your older minions persevered through, having had somewhat of a reputation for not exactly encouraging thinking outside the box, blue or otherwise.

    You know, back when young-and-hip Microsoft (how times have changed) were having your lunch.

  10. TechYogJosh

    What an irony !

    The irony is that all the so called senior execs taking these life changing decisions for other lowly employees are themselves old. Why arent these senior execs sacked then? How old is Giny Rometty? The point is people in delivery and technical jobs are the ones selected for retrenchment. It is unfortunate but true. It seems seeing youngster around gives a feeling of change and newness in tech, not sure how it is on the ground. If salaries are the issue, they should cut the salaries and let the employees know their wont be any raises going forward. See if the employee wants to continue or not? At least give a chance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What an irony !

      Why arent these senior execs sacked then? How old is Giny Rometty?

      II'm not quite sure, but she's looking her age these days

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: What an irony !

        Why arent these senior execs sacked then? How old is Giny Rometty?

        II'm not quite sure, but she's looking her age these days

        Wow, she's not aged a day since 1983.

      2. Don Pederson

        Re: What an irony !

        Giny is 61, so probably older than many that are being sacked.

    2. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

      Re: What an irony !

      61.

      El Reg wouldn't let me post just the number, in spite of that being the only information I needed to convey. I love it when people encourage a pedant to give more detailed information!

    3. Andytug

      Re: What an irony !

      I've always wanted to know where the crossover point is between "we have to make these people redundant and employ cheaper ones for the company/make these people take a salary cut for efficiency" and "we have to pay these people more to get the best people"?

      Does it vary between companies, or is it a set point?

      1. Adelio

        Re: What an irony !

        If they are executived then they need more pay to stay, anyone else can go Swivel!

      2. Why Not?

        Re: What an irony !

        Whether they are C level or Grunts.

        Being related or going to school with other C levels helps.

  11. trevorde

    Why...

    ... would any youngster want to work for IBM over Apple, Google, Microsoft or anyone else? Working for IBM used to get some kudos on your CV, now it's more of a black mark.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why...

      So is working for Apple, Google or Microsoft.

  12. naive

    Slowly spiralling into oblivion like Unisys

    It is sad to see a company, that was the technical benchmark in IT from the baby-boomer age up to the early 2000's, slowly became irrelevant. IBM lost its technical aura, the great company building the 360/370 architecture, setting standards and making the fastest CPU's now is becoming what Unisys is now. I am sure the day they will start emulating z-Series on Intel will be near.

    Their path into technical irrelevance indeed implies it can afford to replace technical competence by millenials fingering their smart phones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Slowly spiralling into oblivion like Unisys

      It is sad to see a company, that was the technical benchmark in IT from the baby-boomer age up to the early 2000's, slowly became irrelevant.

      Hands up who remembers Rodime and can tell me what it does now. (You'll be surprised.)

      1. tmz

        Re: Slowly spiralling into oblivion like Unisys

        Bringing Rodime back to life must have been a big gamble.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Slowly spiralling into oblivion like Unisys

        "Hands up who remembers Rodime and can tell me what it does now. (You'll be surprised.)"

        He's back in the game of sculpting statues of mute people? I thought he was dead, but it's marvellous what doctors can do these days.

  13. spold Bronze badge
    Childcatcher

    Don't hire us....

    >>>

    IBM's consulting branch about aging workforces that appears to suggest older workers were less valuable.

    <<<

    If the IBM Consulting conclusion is that it makes sense to blow your corporate brains out then I won't be hiring those consultants anytime soon - I guess that business line has already completed firing all the older experienced consultants and replacing them with cheaper ones with no experience. And I thought the point about using consultants was to tap into their extensive experience.

    [Won't someone think of the children - because those are the consultants you will be hiring]

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Don't hire us....

      One of these days, there will be sweet revenge of sorts on these consultants. The consultant will probably be canned for someone younger and cheaper.

  14. ByTheSea

    I joyfully took voluntary separation in 2000 and it was always about the money for IBM. It was openly stated by Functional Managers, time you over 50's took the money and went. The irony is some years later I met one of those FMs who had been forced out and boy was he bitter. I laughed about it for days afterwards.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just IBM

    Quote: "Yet, one of the long-running allegations against IBM, though, is that it does not always offer retraining and new positions to older staff to fit them into roles that require new tech skills. Instead it prefers to simply lay them off, and lure in young talent otherwise applying for jobs at Microsoft, Amazon, and Google, it is claimed."

    CSC/DXC seem to be doing the exact same thing, and no doubt other large corps as well.

    So difficult to get relevant training via the company, no budget etc. and now an insistence to do work related training in your own time! (It's a formal goal!). Then they turn round and tell you, you don't have the right skill set!

    For myself, I've got my escape kit on, just waiting for the paperwork to come through! Hopefully to greener pastures, or at least not as dark as these!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just IBM

      Good luck for your future! I was so glad my job was culled by my previous employer, although it was only after i was out that I realised how corrosive the work environment had become.

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