IBM UK staff face uncertain future as redundancy plans placed on 'pause'

06 March 2018 3 min. read
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IBM has “paused” its decision to offer voluntary redundancies for hundreds of front line service staff in the UK. A consultation, which began in December, had aimed at easing one in three members of the firm’s IS Delivery team out of the door, alone.

2017 compounded a sustained rough-patch for IBM in the British market. Big Blue were found to have failed to grow their top and bottom lines for 21 continuous quarters, prompting a change of leadership in the firm’s UK wing. Bill Kelleher inherited the UK & Ireland Chief Executive office from David Stokes,  under whom IBM sales in the UK fell to £3.657 billion in 2015, the last full P&L accounts the organisation filed at Companies House. In the same period, operating profit more than halved from £290 million to £138 million.

Despite the change at the top, IBM has since continued to resort to the tactic of redundancy cycles, in order to return to growth and improve profitability. As a result, in December it was reported that almost 1,900 front line services personnel at IBM UK were at risk of redundancy, with more than 500 of those scheduled to leave the company as part of its latest cost purge. This includes 1,118 heads at risk in IS Delivery (ISD), where IBM aimed to cut down on 362 positions. A further 780 people in Technical Services Support (TSS) were also deemed "in scope", with 152 of the latter to be laid off.

IBM UK staff face uncertain future as redundancy plans placed on

A 45-day consultation process commenced on 6 December, and notes from the ISD Employee Consultation Committee were sent to staff on 8 December. Now, however, IBM has made a major u-turn on its latest redundancy programme for both TSS and ISD staff in the UK and Ireland, informing those it had previously agreed to let leave that the process is being paused.

Jon Grubb, IBM’s Director of GTS service delivery for UK and Ireland, wrote to his team confirming the Open Voluntary Offer phase had been "paused to give the opportunity and time for more Voluntary Expressions of Interest to be made.”

In a memo that has since been circulated by the media, Grubb added, “The window during which employees can express interest in a voluntary package has been re-opened and will remain open until further notice.”

Sources have since cited growing discontent among IBM’s UK workforce, which has been left unimpressed as the uncertainty they endured since late 2017 will now continue for the foreseeable future.

One workplace representative reportedly said on an internal forum, "The whole programme has descended into near farce on the voluntary phase, with IBM resisting all attempts from the employee reps to get a meaningful extension to the voluntary phase before Christmas, then coming back at yesterday's meeting (31 January) with a proposal to re-open the voluntary phase, but not honour the commitments made to those who have already gone through the EOI phase."

The representative went on to add that trying to confirm deadlines for both the voluntary and involuntary redundancies had become "impossible", while no fresh dates had yet been imposed.