IBM took a $200 million charge for 'workforce rebalancing' actions but refused to use the word layoffs

IbmREUTERS/Thomas PeterA man visits the stand of U.S. firm IBM at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover March 2, 2010.

IBM won’t talk about its ongoing layoffs, except in the broadest Wall Street jargon using words that do not include “lay” or “off.”

But in that financial jargon the company did confirm that it is, and will continue to, shed and shift employees, while also hiring new people.

Specifically, IBM CFO Martin Schroeter told Wall Street analysts on its quarterly conference call Monday that the company took a $US200 million charge for “workforce rebalancing.”

Workforce rebalancing” is IBM-speak for layoffs, but it also includes other things that move workers from declining business units into growing areas like cloud computing, mobile, analytics (including Watson).

For instance, IBM also retrains some people, spokespeople say.

Schroeter shed a tiny bit of light on that by saying, “We’ve hired over 2,000 incremental resources into our mobility practices and shifted almost 1,000 to analytics projects.”

“Incremental resources” could mean he hired 2,000 new employees, or it could mean he hired 2,000 contractors, etc.

He also said that IBM is using some sort of “alternative labour models” to help keep costs down:

We remain focused on our cost competitiveness through alternative labour models, more aggressively shifting resources to higher-value offerings and enhancing our global delivery capabilities.

Phrases like “alternative labour models” can be a euphemisms for hiring contractors, offshoring jobs, hiring H1-B visa workers from overseas, or any number of things. (We’ve asked IBM to clarify all of this, and will update when they respond).

All this means that even though we have another quarterly figure attached to “workforce rebalancing,” we can’t use it to estimate how many pink slips were issued.

But whatever the formula, IBM is looking to basically repeat it, again, in the third quarter, Schroeter said, at least in terms of how much he spends on “workforce rebalancing.”

Last month, we reported that two IBM employees said that layoffs had commenced inside their business units. An IBM spokesperson declined comment.

IBM took a $US280 million charge for rebalancing in the first quarter of 2015, CFO Martin Schroeter reported in April.

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