back to article IBM's contractor crackdown continues: Survivors refusing pay cut have hours reduced

IBM's efforts to crimp the cost of its contract workforce are continuing, The Register has learned. Big Blue recently stopped hiring new contractors and asked those who remained to take a 10 per cent pay cut. Now it's trying to cut contractors' hours, in three ways. We were told today that some contractors have been told they …

  1. chrismevans

    Why contract these days?

    When you look at stories like this (which may or may not be indicative of the wider industry), I wonder why anyone contracts these days. Add in the UK governments obsession with "equalising" tax payments for those who have permanent jobs and those who find they may not get paid for 2 weeks next month and it isn't surprising that we keep claiming there is a skills shortage.

    Who would want to work under these conditions?

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: Why contract these days?

      From my perspective, and from speaking to other contractor colleagues I'm not sure this is indicative of the wider industry - it's just IBM being IBM. Corporate and "management" fuckwittery of the highest order. They tried this back in 2004 also and I happily walked away to another client rather than agree to their terms. Whilst it may sound a little arrogant, I'm assuming the only reason any contractor would agree to this situation would be because they have either been at IBM too long and grown too comfortable - in which case they kind of deserve what they get; or that they don't feel they have the skills to move on - which again, begs the question as to their motivations as contractors.

      There is plenty of work out there at the moment, both in the UK and mainland Europe. No reason to put up with any of this crap.

      1. Unep Eurobats
        Trollface

        Re: Why contract these days?

        I know it happens in the States but I don't think companies are allowed to do the furlough thing in Europe. Although it may be coming to the UK in a couple of years.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I don't think companies are allowed to do the furlough thing...

          Not to permanent staff, but if the contract says they can, then they can. One of the real differences between being a member of staff and a contractor.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I don't think companies are allowed to do the furlough thing...

            Agree totally, they don't need you for a fortnight, go do some work for another client - that's what I do. These guys are running their own businesses, they should not be relying on a flaky customer like IBM.

            If I was them I'd be pitching my services to the client - fuck whatever clauses IBM has written into their contracts, spark up a new Ltd. company and go get 'em!

        2. John Riddoch

          Re: Why contract these days?

          I know some companies force contractors to take 2-4 weeks off over Christmas, when things are normally quiet anyway. I suspect this is written into the contracts, so people go in with eyes open, though. Having the employer force you to take 2 weeks off without much notice is a bit off.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why contract these days?

          It does happen in the U.K.

          My previous client had a policy of telling all contractors to take some of August and December off as there wasn't enough need for them in those holiday periods.

          The option was to either accept these 'close down' periods or take the notification as your 1 week's notice.

          If IBM are complaining about hours, then why not 'force' contractors onto day rates? I get the same rate whether I do a 6 hour day or a 20 hour day - unless. I've negotiated a set price for a specific deliverable.

        4. Gordan

          Re: Why contract these days?

          "I don't think companies are allowed to do the furlough thing in Europe."

          If you are a contractor, of course they are. They key distinction between employees and contractors is mutuality of obligation.

          Employees have mutuality of obligation, employer is obliged to provide work for them to do (or rather, pay them whether they provide the work or not), and the employee is obliged to do it in line with the terms of their contract of employment.

          Contractors have no mutuality of obligation, so yes, they can indeed be told to take two weeks off, obviously unpaid.

          On the other hand, two weeks is plenty of time to attend enough interviews to secure an offer, if your holiday plans don't happen to coincide with it.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why contract these days?

          I work in the UK as a contractor - we are most definitely furloughed, twice, each and every year in the company I work for.

          Exemption requires the CTO to sign off on it.

          I work for a major mobile carrier.

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why contract these days?

          IBM is doing this in the UK now, and has been for a while. Delivery Managers have to load furlough plans with a minimum of 2 weeks per quarter per FTE contractor. When accounts / sectors miss the targets contractor hires / extensions are suspended or take monumental effort.

          Doesn't seem to matter if it impacts customers... people are just told to keep it hush from the client.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why contract these days?

      "or those who have permanent jobs"

      Contractors have permanent jobs too. The distinction you're looking for is staff vs freelance. Just because you own your employer doesn't mean you're not an employee.

    3. Gordan

      Re: Why contract these days?

      "Who would want to work under these conditions?"

      Contracting is not, and has never been for everyone. There is always more work for those at the top of their field than there are hours in the day, far too much to consider a permanency pay cut.

    4. AbortRetryFail

      Re: Why contract these days?

      It's true that contracting is getting less and less attractive.

      I've been freelance for 17 years now, and am starting to wonder why I do it. I just can't bring myself to take the collar and leash of wage slavery though.

      1. cyclical

        Re: Why contract these days?

        I did this after 19 years and it was a pretty good decision - less stress, better hours, far less paperwork - the pay is lower but I don't have to deal with mystery fluctuations when someone decides to query my invoices (how can you charge that much for migrating our legacy PERL systems to a new server, the bosses nephew reckons he could have done it in a day!) and you don't get paid for a few months. But yeah, I'm a touch bored too,

    5. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Why contract these days?

      Add in the UK governments obsession with "equalising" tax payments for those who have permanent jobs

      Which is a direct response to many companies severely taking the piss by making practically every employee a "contractor" to avoid having to pay holidays, sickness, pensions and in some cases, the minimum wage.

      Presumably it was thought that reducing the benefits to doing this would reduce the attraction for doing it for companies. Personally I consider that the companies taking the piss were the problem here, not the Government responding to it.

      1. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Re: Why contract these days?

        "Add in the UK governments obsession with "equalising" tax payments for those who have permanent jobs"

        Which is a direct response to many companies severely taking the piss by making practically every employee a "contractor" to avoid having to pay holidays, sickness, pensions and in some cases, the minimum wage.

        And many of the guilty companies are those offering outsourcing services to what were once in-house to local/central government and the NHS.

        When NHS and education employees were being offered this kind of employment back in 1995, no wonder that the government was concerned about "Friday to Monday" changes in employment contracts, for government itself was going to be a driving force in that direction.

    6. ecofeco Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Why contract these days?

      Why? Many people have no choice. Many companies offer NO choice.

      People don't work crappy jobs because they want to.

    7. Lotaresco

      Re: Why contract these days?

      " I wonder why anyone contracts these days."

      I was with HP as a contractor when they tried this nonsense and tried to play hardball with the contractors. We had a meeting and we all said "Fine, we'll be off then if you don't need us."

      Odd, how a big company can suddenly realise what a massive gooly it has just dropped. Several years on I'm still contracting and my day rate is a lot higher than it was then.

  2. goldcd

    “be forced to reduce their CLAIMED hours by 15 per cent.”

    and then it just gets worse as the article continues.

    Might as well just say "Anybody who can get a job elsewhere, please do so. Those unable to get employed will shortly be appearing as the new expensive IBM expertise on customer sites."

    1. Unep Eurobats
      Holmes

      Re: “be forced to reduce their CLAIMED hours by 15 per cent.”

      But taking a pay cut in return for reducing your hours is a lot fairer than taking a pay cut ... and having to work the same number of hours. I know which I'd prefer.

      1. frank ly Silver badge

        @Unep Eurobats Re: “be forced to reduce their CLAIMED hours by 15 per cent.”

        These are contractors who are paid by the number of hours worked and the 'pay cut' is a reduction of their hourly rate.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: “be forced to reduce their CLAIMED hours by 15 per cent.”

      Might as well just say "Anybody who can get a job elsewhere, please do so."

      Or this:

      “In the last seven months I've pretty much worked constantly with five of my former clients, who have hired me directly to do the same work they can no longer find anybody at IBM to do.”

      Non-compete clauses? IBM is repudiating its own contracts so it might have a hard time enforcing them.

      1. keithpeter
        Coat

        Re: “be forced to reduce their CLAIMED hours by 15 per cent.”

        What is IBM actually providing? Access to software? Access to servers? What is to stop people dis-intermediating the big blue fairly aggressively and at scale?

        Coat: actually shorts and flip flops at present in UK

        1. caffeine addict Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: “be forced to reduce their CLAIMED hours by 15 per cent.”

          You're clearly a contractor. An employee wouldn't have to go get his shorts so he could leave.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Reducing hours is a better deal

            Yeah, with 15% fewer hours you make 15% less money, but that's better than the guy who is working the same number of hours before and making 10% less money. Free time is worth something, and if your objection is "but I need that income to pay bills" then you shouldn't be a contractor - contracting is absolutely 100% not for people who live paycheck to paycheck, and don't have reserves to tolerate months off work, let alone a two week surprise furlough. If I was contracting for IBM, I'd respond to the 15% fewer hours by working 8.5 hours a day instead of 8 hours a day, and taking Fridays off. Your move, IBM.

            As for the emphasis on "CLAIMED" hours in this thread, claimed hours = actual hours. If it doesn't, you might as well not be contracting. I've never worked a single hour I wasn't paid for - if I'm on a contract that limits me to 40 hours a week of work, when I hit 40 I'm done for the week, or I take it as comp time in a future week (if such an arrangement has been made) Anyone dumb enough to work 40 hours for IBM and bill them for only 34 hour needs to realize they turned down a 10% pay cut in favor of a 15% pay cut!

  3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Seems things will be getting worse before they get better - but gut feeling says it will be MUCH worse.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Meh

    I notice my bigcorp is taking the hint from IBM and HP

    Everything was rosy last quarter, but now Savings Must Be Made.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: I notice my bigcorp is taking the hint from IBM and HP

      They're not taking their hint from IBM and HP, they're taking their hint from Wall Street. The market is overvalued right now, with overly high P/E ratios. Stocks that can't make earnings to justify their valuations will be punished in favor of those who do, and stock prices going down hurts senior management who typically have stock options or bonuses based on "shareholder value" (which unfortunately is shorthand for stock price, because compensation committees are lazy)

      They respond with cost cutting measures to save quarterly results because failure to make quarterly numbers hits them in the wallet. Once they reach a point where even extreme cost cutting won't allow them to make the numbers they'll either leave for another job, or try to bring forward a bunch of expenses to make a few quarters REALLY bad, to lower Wall Street expectations and set them up for making big bonuses next year for their "recovery". Short term measures lead to short term management.

      Don't worry, when the inevitable correction hits, it will be easier to make targets, and the pressure will be off. Assuming your company is actually healthy, and not in dire circumstances like IBM and HP. HP has been in cost cutting mode for about 15 years now, and now that they've driven away all the competent people the chickens are coming home to roost. IBM didn't have that head start, but they're doing their best to catch up in only a few years' time.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I notice my bigcorp is taking the hint from IBM and HP

        "HP has been in cost cutting mode for about 15 years now, and now that they've driven away all the competent people the chickens are coming home to roost."

        Which goes a long way towards explaining how lifetime (30 year) LTO media warranties have been changed to 3 or 5 years.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I notice my bigcorp is taking the hint from IBM and HP

        Cloudy outlook? There's a storm coming.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I notice my bigcorp is taking the hint from IBM and HP

      Someone on ZeroHedge warned that IBM could be looking at bankruptcy because a high ranking insider warned that the saving drive is extreme; so much so that expensive projects are being stalled because ordering a cheap part can't be authorised and warns IBM people to beware!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I notice my bigcorp is taking the hint from IBM and HP

        The problem is that cloud has now started to bite and it is very disruptive. 15 years ago IBM made big money on outsourcing. But then everyone saw how much they were making and all piled in -- the margins dropped and companies got wise to how to deal with the outsourcers (no more billion dollar deals, but maybe $100 or just $10 three-year rolling contracts).

        In fairness to IBM they saw the writing on the wall some time ago and have been trying to ditch the outsourcing business and focus on cloud. Their selling point was/is to add these high-value business services on the back of them, so cloud is cheap or a loss-leader, and then the businesses are all supposed to want to buy into Analytics, etc.

        While IBM has been pushing AI (branded as Watson) everyone else has jumped on the AI bandwagon. It remains to be seen how successful this will be for everyone, but the proof of the pudding will be how much money those companies that come to IBM and the rest can make on the back of this technology.

        If Brexit means we get anti-austerity, inflationary policies that put more money into Joe Public's pocket, this may help in the longer term.

        Oh, look, is that a flying pig?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At this rate there will soon be no IBM worth talking about.

    Unfortunately the rot started a long while ago when the MBAs and marketing wonks got control in the board room.

  6. Whitter
    Unhappy

    Abuse, plain and simple.

    Only those who cannot walk for whatever reason can conceivably still be contracted to IBM. This sounds like straightforward abuse of such people. Without doubt a mass walk-out by contractors would hit IBM where it hurts but sadly, it would hit the contractors that much harder.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Abuse, plain and simple.

      Not really.

      IBM loses it's ability to support the customer.

      The customer sues for breach of contract.

      IBM wins court case.

      IBM loses customer.

      End result? Contractor still looking for a new contract, so better to start now before the flood of contractors hits the market.

      AC because I am ex IBM and loving it.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Abuse, plain and simple.

        "End result? Contractor still looking for a new contract"

        End result, if they've any wit, contractor still supporting ex-IBM customer and divvying up IBM's slice between them. Sort of having your cake and eating it.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Abuse, plain and simple.

          I've never contracted for IBM, but when I've contracted for a company that supported another customer, my contract has always included language preventing me from working, directly or indirectly, for that customer for a couple years or so. The contract the company has with that customer also prevents THEM from hiring on any of their staff or contractors, directly or indirectly.

          I'm sure this sort of thing still happens because it isn't worth fighting over, but I've never thought it was worth testing those clauses. Maybe it is a more reasonable course of action is less sue-happy countries than the US.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Abuse, plain and simple.

            "my contract has always included language preventing me from working, directly or indirectly, for that customer for a couple years or so"

            It sounds like you have a badly written an IR35 caught contract, at least in UK terms.

            The contract should be between ClientCo or AgencyCo and YourCo not you. As someone said in a previous comment, start YourCo2 which never had such a contract.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Abuse, plain and simple.

              Increasingly, the contract between the agent and YourCo is including obnoxious clauses.

              Currently looking at a new contract where the agent is wanting to put a clause demanding 25% cut of the earnings for a year if you end up working for the same client through a different agent. And when the client they are talking about is IBM, that puts a significant restriction on where you can find future contracts in my main line of work.

              I personally think it is an abuse of the unequal power relationship between a big agent, and a small contracting company, but the only power I have is not to accept the contract, which otherwise is attractive, as long as they don't attempt to trim the rate from what was on offer last week.

            2. DougS Silver badge

              Re: Abuse, plain and simple.

              All my contracts are between my corp and another corp (a go between for the BigCorp I'm consulting for, because in the US no big corporations will contract directly with a little one person corp like mine)

              This language covers anyone my corp employs on the contract, which is always just me, but if I had others in my corp it would affect them too. I asked about that clause once long ago, and was told it was a requirement of BigCorp to the go between so there was nothing they could do about it. I've had clauses struck from contracts before, but I only bother with ones that would negatively impact me to a significant degree like noncompetes, and this is one that does not impact me.

              Since all of my contracts have been made through contacts in the various BigCorps, who then sole source me to their go between, I'm not beholden to that go between. If I find something I want struck, like the 25% example provided, if they won't play ball I tell my contact. They've always been able to tell the go between to do what I ask. It also allows me to negotiate my rate directly with the contact - the rate that will be paid to the go between. I then tell the go between they can take $10/hr, and if they squawk remind them I arranged the gig, not them, and there are other go betweens available for BigCorp (not always true, different divisions may have set go betweens, but by this time they're scared of me and just accept that I'm probably telling the truth)

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Bob Vistakin
      Facepalm

      Re: Abuse, plain and simple.

      One obvious question - who picks up these extra hours if it's no longer the contractor? It has to be the remaining permies.

      Way to go for morale boosting, Intense Bowel Movement.

    3. ckm5

      Re: Abuse, plain and simple.

      What happens is all the best people leave - basically the ones who were propping up everyone else. Because only C/D players are left, contracts are lost or not won.

      It's basically a death spiral. IBM is circling the drain.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        Re: Abuse, plain and simple.

        "What happens is all the best people leave ... It's basically a death spiral. IBM is circling the drain."

        This is my perception of what happened at Northern Telecom. They made a whole load of people redundant. That, in turn, made lots of people nervous. Including Nobel Prize calibre physicists. Turns out that if you make that quality of person investigate their market worth then they discover that they can get a *much* better deal elsewhere, all the smart people left and Nortel declined into bankruptcy.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Going, going...

    Gone?

  8. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    "This has been communicated to senior IBM management as non-negotiable with no recourse for exclusion, regardless of the business case or impact to clients"

    Oh dear, and they wonder why they lose contracts. A big fuss used to be made about 'New Logo' contracts, but not enough effort put in to keep the existing customers happy. I guess they see the landscape being paved with three year tie ins, and customers are disposable after.

    I bet the trophy wall at Warwick looks a bit sparse these days.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Long since replaced by staff art exhibitions...

  9. Miss Lincolnshire

    Nothing new

    HPE were doing this when I was there.

    10% Rate cut demands

    Easter "Furlough" - 4 days

    Summer "Furlough - 8 days

    Christmas "Furlough" - 10 days

    All sprung on you with no notice. When you aren't there the increasingly sparse, and non overtime earning, permanent staff get battered to cover the gaps. They can't and customers suffer.

    I won't work for them again, they either want the job you were employed for doing or they don't. I worked a "professional" day so they were already getting at least a free day a week off me as it was but they still had to take the piss and push it.

  10. Jeffrey Jefferson

    How does IBM keep winning outsourcing contracts if things are that bad?

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      How does IBM keep winning outsourcing contracts if things are that bad?

      FTFY

      1. Jeffrey Jefferson

        Lloyds Bank & Bombardier?

      2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        "does IBM keep winning outsourcing contracts if things are that bad?"

        You might recall a recent story about Lloyds outsourcing to IBM.

        https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/06/lloyds_confirms_ibm_cloudy_outsourcing/

        Somehow IBM salesy bullshitters seem to be able to convince upper management of large corporations to sign up, in this case for ten years, and ~£1.3 Bn . You really have to be naive to sign a contract of that duration.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "You might recall a recent story about Lloyds outsourcing to IBM.

          https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/06/lloyds_confirms_ibm_cloudy_outsourcing/"

          However, there's also https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/06/20/ibm_xeon_only_discount/

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Won't hurt winning new contracts

            Because the customer will be fleeing someone else they were unhappy with, such as HP. It is easy to assume things will be better with a new partner. Kind of like how you are giddy when you start a new relationship and it takes a little time to see each others flaws and annoying habits :)

            Where it will hurt is renewals and references. The impact on those won't be felt for a few years, but I'd expect to see IBM's outsourcing revenue begin to make a steep dive around 2020 as a result.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "You really have to be naive to sign a contract of that duration."

          Or taking a very large sweetener. Follow the money.

    2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re : How does IBM keep winning outsourcing contracts if things are that bad?

      If it is anything like some of the pre-sales meetings I had to endure when I was at IBM, it's (A) because the IBM salesmen are full of bullshit, and (B) because for some strange reason I guess the 3rd parties still seem to be enamoured and impressed by that fact they are talking to IBM perhaps??? In that case you have a bizarre, strange and self fulfilling relationship.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge
      Holmes

      Kickbacks are a very big incentives to the executives who are actually signing the contracts.

      Did you think those offshore tax shelters were JUST tax shelters?

  11. AbortRetryFail

    And yet IBM are hiring contractors

    I wonder if it may be to replace people who have walked, but JobServe is currently awash with agencies advertising for C++ contractors to go into IBM Hursley. All demanding a current SC Clearance, which is in clear contravention of guidelines issued by the Ministry of Defence (not that such things bother IBM of course).

    The more I read and hear about IBM, the less I want to have them as a client.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And yet IBM are hiring contractors

      To be fair that's because the rest of government don't give a toss what MoD think about security regs. MoD have a very weird security culture.

      1. AbortRetryFail

        Re: And yet IBM are hiring contractors

        It's an overall government policy as laid out in the Cabinet Office code of practice document 'Recruiting for vacancies requiring National Security Vetting Clearance'.

        Trouble is, being merely a code of practice, it can be completely ignored quite legally.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    > An IBM staffer who asked to remain anonymous tells The Register that the company has now told senior management that those contractors who refused the pay cut will “be forced to reduce their claimed hours by 15 per cent.”

    And this is why IBM should never, ever, be considered for critical infrastructure.

  13. adam payne Silver badge

    "The Register has also seen a document in which team leaders are offered a new tool for analysing and projecting the number of hours worked by contractors in order to “improve forecast accuracy” and achieve a “Utilization Delta +/- 10%”. Contractors are therefore are being asked to submit their expected working hours two weeks in advance."

    Submit the hours you are going to work two weeks in advance, how does anyone know that?

    "Another told us that “The most recent cut of contractor labor has left me the sole supporter of one business critical system which supports part of the information security for many clients.”

    This person goes on holiday and through sods law the system falls over, what are you going to do then IBM?

    "“In several cases they had to obtain a quote for services from IBM as a comparison and have had to wait months just to get back a quote that was twice the price and three times the duration, and could not be started for months, due to a lack of available staff. In one instance, I was even approached by IBM to do the work my client had asked them to quote for!”

    You wonder why you are losing money when you leave a client waiting for three months for a quote, seriously on what planet is this acceptable?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Submit the hours you are going to work two weeks in advance, how does anyone know that?"

      That's nothing; a few years ago one of the other, now equally troubled, tech companies used to ask consultants to forecast their time up to three MONTHS in advance. Managers maintained spreadsheets of weightings and probabilities in a futile attempt to make this work.

    2. Snorlax
      Meh

      @adam payne: "This person goes on holiday and through sods law the system falls over, what are you going to do then IBM?"

      At 4.30pm on the day you leave for your holiday, your manager says "Keep your phone on Adam, we might need to call you while you're off."

      That's why my fictional holiday destinations don't have a phone signal...

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Submitting expected hours

        Depends on what they're going to do with it. If they're using it to budget for your expected labor, expect the most hours you can get away with so you don't have to worry about them telling you to cut back if you've exceeded your "budget", and if you work less than expected/budgeted no one is going to complain. If it is to determine who is the 'most expensive' and therefore who to get rid of, just say 40 hours a week and stop working when you reach that limit and if they ask why you weren't working Friday tell them why - "I submitted expectations for 40 hours a week, so I didn't think I was allowed to exceed that".

        When you get weird questions like this, you just have to figure out why it is being asked. Then you'll know how to respond.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > That's why my fictional holiday destinations don't have a phone signal...

        Some parts of Cornwall, on the beach even :D, have no mobile signal, and the local population refuses all attempts to install them.

        It's actually pretty wonderful in summer. :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I actively seek out these locations.

          It's the only time the kids look up from their phones and engage in real conversation.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's on

        in silent mode and in the safe which is an effective Faraday cage.

    3. MarkW99

      If I could forecast the future 2 weeks ahead, I wouldn't have to work for IBM or anybody else.

  14. Mephistro Silver badge
    Facepalm

    This is just another proof...

    ... that unbridled Capitalism has managed to create an environment in which the company's own management is also the company's worst enemy.

    Seriously, this is a perfect shitstorm, and won't get fixed until it has already demolished most of our economies.

    It's also another proof that our governments are either criminal or criminally stupid.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: This is just another proof...

      that unbridled Capitalism has MBAs have managed to create an environment in which the company's own management is also the company's worst enemy

      "It's also another proof that our governments are either criminal or criminally stupid."

      Governments appoint MBAs to run companies? Some businesses have been run well, some run badly since businesses existed. Good businesses have fallen prey to bad management. What's it to do with government?

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: This is just another proof...

        MBAs do -mostly- what the laws allow them to do. Some regulation regarding things like golden parachutes, bonuses, financial engineering and executives' personal liability would go a long way towards fixing these issues.

        To work, these regulations would also need a serious effort in enforcement.

        I agree nonetheless that what is taught in these MBA degrees is seriously lacking in ethics, but the problem would fix itself after a few of these managers find themselves jailed or personally bankrupted by fines.

        And IMO, bad management due to incompetence and stupidity shouldn't be punished, as people don't usually choose to be noobs. Consider it as a form of Darwinism, both for companies and shareholders. You hire scum to run the company, you face the consequences. No bailouts, no "too big to fail", no bullshit.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: This is just another proof...

          "MBAs do -mostly- what the laws allow them to do."

          Theoretically, they are also constrained by the shareholders. In practice, the shareholders are the infinitely smart masters of the universe who manage our pension funds, so the actual level of oversight is not experimentally distinguishable from zero.

          Can the system be described as "broken" if the actual problem is that no-one is bothering to implement it?

          1. DougS Silver badge

            It is a compensation problem, not a capitalism problem

            If senior management is being compensated in a way that encourages short term thinking - quarterly results, stock price, etc. then they'll manage the company accordingly. When management is compensated using long term measures, they'll manage with a long term viewpoint and you won't see them pursuing strategies that will hurt the company in 3-5 years just to make this quarter/FY numbers.

            So long as you realize everyone is going to pursue their own self-interest, and set goals that align the long term interests of the company with people's self-interest, you'll be fine. When their self-interest conflicts with the long term interests of the company, then it is the fault of people who set their goals (or in the case of management that sets their own goals, the board that approved it or the shareholders that stood by the board)

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: It is a compensation problem, not a capitalism problem

              "If senior management is being compensated in a way that encourages short term thinking - quarterly results"

              This is an area where governments could actually make a difference: ban reporting at less than annual intervals. Yup, I know the arguments. But consider the possibility that the benefits might outweigh the disadvantages.

  15. Gordon Pryra

    The cuts are impacting morale

    Well, no offense, but you have a choice.

    As a contractor myself, I constantly get annoyed by listening to other contractors complain about pay/working conditions etc

    In this case it seems that the IBM contractors see themselves as IBM staff, just on more cash than the full timers, tough go full time or deal with it.

    We are NOT talking about the poor sods on zero hours contracts that are forced to become "self employed" but the upper levels where they don't seem to want to take the negatives along with the cash

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: The cuts are impacting morale

      Alot depends on how the cuts are implemented. A reduction in working hours isn't too bad if you can restructure your week/month to create usable time, ie. time that you can use working for another client. The problems arise when the job's worth's managers decide that you need to be present 5 days a week for "core hours" of 10:00-16:00 in the expectation that most people will actually be onsite and thus work 9'ish to 5'ish...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The cuts are impacting morale

        9 to 5? More like 8 to 7 due to lack of resources.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The 'Hours Plan'

    Ah yes, the 'Hours Plan' where both FTE's and contractors have to predict their hours for the following two weeks on both project and BAU support work (if in that space). It's base number is a 40 hour week and if you predict you will exceed 50 hours during a week it questions it (I suspect if someone put 30 hours it would question it too.)

    I have the dubious honour of working on both BAU and project work thanks to cuts of both FTE and contractors in both the BAU and project teams. So I now have to predict how many hours I may spend on BAU support work and how much will be spent on individual project work.

    Of course, being BAU and escalation for offshore resources inevitably means that my BAU predictions blow out, project managers underestimate the hours for various activities or push to get more done over the course of the week and weekends than I may have predicted.

    Then there is the customer yelling about this project or that project not being done so a delivery manager pulls me off the project I predicted my hours for to work on a different project (and different code) which then makes what I end up claiming differing significantly from what I had predicted (unless I remember to request an ad hoc plan to modify my existing prediction and I seldom have time to remember to do that.) I was once moved between 3 different projects in one week as my 'top priority' due to customer escalation - the deciding factor was which one resulted I the highest cost in penalties if not delivered on time.

    Generally missing a specific predicted sub-code doesn't cause problems for the hours plan as it looks at total numbers for a week but I did get an email once or twice for the subset of hours that I had predicted but not recorded as actual - it was unclear as to which tool actually generated the email.

    We also get emails that report the 'forecast accuracy' compared to actual claimed and if this was outside the expected bounds (> -10% or > +10% predicted hours) it highlights the forecast accuracy yellow if > 20% red if > 30% or higher - my team are consistently appearing in 'red' for working more hours than predicted.

    I (amongst several hundred other plebs) got the recent missive about discrepancies between predictions of hours and what was eventually recorded. They want accuracy within 10% + or - of our predicted hours vs claimed and everyone was listed on a spreadsheet recording the last 4 weeks or so of hours predicted vs hours actually claimed. If a person was within the range of +/- 10% of predictions they were marked green, everyone else got marked as red. This applied even if you worked well above your predicted hours - all of my team appeared as red for exceeding our predicted hours by more than 10% (all of us had exceeded 50% above our predicted 40-50 hour work week every week of the period they looked at but that has been the case for over 12 months now.)

    We now are getting questioned about our 'excessive' hours worked each week as someone is doing some sort of analysis and noted we work 55 hour weeks on average and it's often around the 60-70 hour mark. The questions weren't about working long hours impacting health or anything like that, it was more questioning why we were working so many hours because of the internal costs it generated As FTE's we don't get overtime so essentially we are each providing between 15 and 40 hours of 'free' labour each week (depending on workload.) There is an internal cost to an account when we bill to it and we guess they've got some base number of hours they anticipate that we would work and not based on anything on actuals.

    Taking time in lieu only hurts the team (especially when your team has been reduced from double digits to single digits) as it means trying to find someone to take on your project work or BAU work and it's not really practicable when most of us are working days, nights and weekends.

    As to why I am still here? I seldom have enough spare time to dedicate to study to update my certifications so that I can make an escape before the inevitable happens.

    1. sebt
      Mushroom

      Re: The 'Hours Plan'

      A long post, but worth the read. It's a vivid example of how much trouble a bunch of fuckwits with a spreadsheet can cause. Can we introduce some kind of licensing system, like for guns? Even if we have to prise the "metrics" out of the cold, dead hands of the fuckwits who invented them.

      I remember when I used to spend my working day developing, testing and supporting clients. Rather than doing some weird kind of improvised contemporary dance routine through the hoops and labyrinths imposed by Process. Or Process Management. Or the Process Management Process.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The 'Hours Plan'

        "Or the Process Management Process."

        Or the Process Management Report Process Report.

    2. Miss Lincolnshire

      Re: The 'Hours Plan'

      Pogs, it's all about Pogs. Wooden Dollars. Pretend money.

      Fictional costs that don't actually exist when people are not getting paid overtime but that still get billed internally at the hourly rate without any cap even after you’ve done your 5 days. I remember working through a Sev1 where I booked a straight 38 hours because that was the hours it took to do the fix. That was 38 hours at £80 an hour on the internal rate card. Over £3k when I was not clearing amount a month. My resource pool lead looked good that month. I got bugger all.

      Aside from distorting the real costs of project and live service delivery it also sees funds sucked off into areas that should not be doing anything other than break even on the resource they supply. Is it any wonder that those not delivering have more budget to waste than those that don’t?

      Typical that it is the costs rather than the physical effects on individuals that bother IBM (and HPE and CSC and etc ) the most.

    3. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: The 'Hours Plan'

      @AC 3600 Steeles was in this state 4 years ago. Don't bother polishing anything just start asking. There is *MUCH* better work out there. For what its worth, I *never* specced a code on target hours. Don't use lotus notes behind the tool, switch to LO spreadsheet, fill it out, save it, pop it open in lotus and submit.

      Stupidity of the worst sort, and the reason I left.

    4. cd / && rm -rf *

      Re: The 'Hours Plan'

      " it was unclear as to which tool actually generated the email"

      One wonders whether the tool in question is software or wetware.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: The 'Hours Plan'

        Can sock puppets be considered tools?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "regardless of the business case or impact to clients"

    Yeah, that's never a good sign...

  18. Nolveys Silver badge
    Windows

    You know...

    ...I haven't seen the film "Titanic" in a while. Remember when those people fell off the stern and hit the propellers on their way down to the icy water below? Yeah, that was great.

  19. ForthIsNotDead

    Sounds like IBM is screwed

    It sounds like the haemorrhage of money at IBM has reached the "OH FUCK WE'RE GOING UNDER" point.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “This has been communicated to senior IBM management as non-negotiable with no recourse for exclusion, regardless of the business case or impact to clients.” At the beginning of May, 2017, half of the High End Server Hardware Warranty Support Team left IBM to go to HPE. That left the Team decimated. The following week, they laid off three of us, leaving only three Techs to support Lenovo and IBM Server hardware customers. Now, there likely isn't any contractors left to get the work done. Meanwhile, the over abundance of managers and Team Leads aren't the ones taking inbound calls and providing customer service. Apparently, they matter more to IBM than serving customers. How long before IBM merges with "someone else"?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Half the team left, and then they laid three off the following week? Makes me think that the half who left got wind of the layoffs and decided to make their own plans first, but the layoffs were already in motion and couldn't be stopped in time. Whoever manages that team presumably begged his boss' boss to stop the layoffs, but probably they were ordered to "make x layoffs in your unit" and were being measured on a metric that didn't take voluntary exits into account.

      Shitty management!

  21. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Unhappy

    The IBM Logo

    ......displayed outside their main offices done in stainless steel should be replaced by inflatable polyuerethane with some of air deliberately left out.

  22. davidfavor

    $100+/hour Multi-Client Contracting + Continuity Income Guide

    My last, single client, contract gig was a 10 year engagement with IBM.

    Over a 6 month period my rate was cut from $69/hour to $35/hour + hours reduced from 60+/week to 40/week.

    After this I started doing multi-client work from home for $100/hour.

    If I lose one client, there's a line of others on a wait list waiting to pay me.

    My first contact gig was 1982 + with net connectivity, contracting is better now than ever.

    Trick is...

    1) Work from home.

    2) Network big time - Attend Meetups. Speak at Meetups/Conferences. Participate in forums.

    Effective/Lucrative Networking relates to providing such massive value to so many people, a few really smart ones will clearly understand your value + keep you on permanent payroll.

    3) Target having many clients, rather than one or two big ones.

    4) Ensure your hourly work drives to some sort of continuity. Example...

    My work tends to revolve around setup/tuning/maintenance of LAMP Stacks running WordPress.

    After wrestling with badly broken + outdated hosting setup, I started doing private hosting.

    Now I only do hourly work for my hosting clients. Since all runtime setups are the same, I can do in an hour what it use to take me 10-20+ hours in random runtime environments.

    So my continuity is private hosting.

    Consider services you offer + work out some form of continuity.

    Having $1000s/week continuity income, to me, makes the old school contracting I use to do look like a joke.

    And thank you IBM, for royally screwing with my income years ago, so I was inspired to dump big clients for multi-client + at home work.

    1. stephanh Silver badge

      Re: $100+/hour Multi-Client Contracting + Continuity Income Guide

      So, unlike IBM, you have a profitable cloud business?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: $100+/hour Multi-Client Contracting + Continuity Income Guide

      "2) Network big time - Attend Meetups. Speak at Meetups/Conferences. Participate in forums."

      Let me add another to that. Work on jobs for one client that involve collaboration with other businesses future clients.

  23. Florida1920 Silver badge
    WTF?

    team leaders are offered a new tool

    I'm sure they and their subordinates already know where to find the tools.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: team leaders are offered a new tool

      "I'm sure they and their subordinates already know where to find the tools."

      Don't be too sure. They may be unable to find their arses with both hands and a map.

  24. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    Life after DIC

    Time to brush up your EBCDIC, retirement compadres, for a new career as a very private consultant!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've come to expect weekly, or more frequent, articles about IBM's race to the bottom. For twenty years I competed against them, partnered with them, worked for them and faced-off against them in negotiations on behalf of clients. Every experience was uniformly poor. I've discussed IBM with many people in my industry (enterprise systems) and the most common thread is the bewilderment that the company has managed to get away with price-gouging and under-performance for as long as it has. It does seem that their story is coming to a predictable end. Arrogance coupled with unjustified prices, poor service and cutting delivery resources can only result in its demise.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hoping

    Could a beneficial side effect of IBM's implosion be the death of Lotus Notes? Please?

  27. Roboiii

    Cmon Mr. Robot, You're smarter than they are. Slow it down, produce shit code, etc. To unionize electronically these days, even anonymously, would be so f#cking easy. Use your brains or you deserve what you get. It's warfare ultimately.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Furlough by accident

    One of my customers wanted to employ my services for two days a week for a year. They unfortunately then multiplied two days a week by four to calculate eight days a month, and therefore only have the budget for 48 weeks and not 52 weeks of the year.

    Works for me.

  29. Tronald Dump

    Mystic Meg mode

    Just wait till they merge with that other shower of twats DXC

    1. Miss Lincolnshire

      Re: Mystic Meg mode

      Creating DXC was an excellent idea and a fitting endpoint

      Put all the twats in one place...............................................Pune

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In my case my renewal was put on hold on the last day of the contract. A day before I was told by my agency that the contract is renewed and a P.O. is already generated and good to continue. However, on the last day I was told it is kept on hold indefinitely due to decision from senior management. There was no chance for 15 day notice period as well. I was just given couple of hours to delegate the tasks that were assigned to me. I had a very good opinion about IBM until then but everything changed from that moment..

  31. Bheleu

    IBM joins my private list of outfits not to work for/charge a vast rate for

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