Gov. Peter Shumlin this morning confirmed what has been rumored for weeks: IBM is laying off workers nationwide — and employees at Big Blue's plant in Essex Junction are expected to lose their jobs.
Exactly how many is not yet clear. IBM is one of Vermont's largest employers.
Shumlin put out this statement this morning:
"We heard from IBM today that sites around the United States, including the Essex facility, will be notified of a workforce reorganization that will result in layoffs. I am always concerned when we learn that Vermonters face job losses. Our hearts go out to the affected workers and their families, and I pledge my administration's resources to help their transition. The Vermont Department of Labor has mobilized its rapid response team and is prepared to assist all laid off workers.
"Vermont's partnership with IBM is very important, but our state is not immune to the forces that are driving this decision in the larger organization. IBM has assured us that it remains committed to Vermont. It will continue to invest in new and transformational opportunities that will lead to higher value for the company and its workers here. Job losses are always hard, but it is important to remember that Vermont currently has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country. Many employers in Vermont are ready to hire those with the skills and education of these workers. We will work hard to maximize the Vermont job opportunities for those who face these layoffs."
Stay tuned to Off Message for updates...
Update: 12:44 p.m.
Jeff Couture, spokesman for IBM’s Essex facility, confirms that layoffs are occurring there today but would not indicate how many workers will be let go. Couture also declined to specify the current size of IBM’s Vermont workforce.
“We’re not publicly discussing our strategic plan,” he told Seven Days.
Vermont Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan adds that the state has not yet been notified of the number of layoffs at the Essex plant. She notes, however, that a Vermont Labor Department rule requires notification within 24 hours when more than 25 workers receive pink slips. Noonan says she anticipates receiving such a notice from IBM on Thursday.
State employment officials are ready to assist IBMers who lose their jobs today, Noonan says. “Rapid-response teams” — consisting of counselors, job trainers and other specialists — will be available to help those affected, she said.
Couture is bullish on the long-term prospects for the Essex chip-making plant. “Our business strategy is sound, our products are strong,” he said. “We’re targeting fast-growing business segments, particularly wireless. Most chips we produce go into consumer apps — for example, smart phones and other mobile devices.”
“The long-term business perspective [for the Essex plant] remains positive,” the Big Blue spokesman declared.
Meanwhile, the website Alliance@IBM, which calls itself "the official national site for the IBM employees' union," is filling up with anonymous reports from people who say they've been laid off from IBM.
Editor's note: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the state Department of Labor had not yet been notified of the layoffs on Wednesday. In fact, the state had not been notified of the number of layoffs.