Tech Industry

Poll: Oregon HP workers against merger

A survey commissioned by David W. Packard finds that HP employees in the Corvallis, Ore., area don't want to merge with Compaq.

A survey commissioned by David W. Packard finds that Hewlett-Packard employees in the Corvallis, Ore., area oppose the Compaq Computer merger by a two-to-one margin.

The survey of 445 employees, conducted by Field Research, found 38 percent of workers strongly oppose the deal, 25 percent of workers somewhat oppose the deal, 20 percent of workers somewhat favor the deal and 11 percent of workers strongly favor the deal. Some 6 percent of workers had either no opinion or declined to state.

The poll comes as the last salvo in the battle by Packard and fellow heir Walter Hewlett to block the blockbuster deal. Hewlett and Packard family members and foundations representing 18 percent of HP shares have announced their opposition to the deal, which requires the majority of votes cast to be in favor, with each share being worth one vote, in an election slated for March 19.

HP spokeswoman Rebeca Robboy said that the views in the survey are not representative of HP's overall employee population.

"The survey is focused on one community which represents one business and one set of employees," Robboy said. "We're in 160 countries and many different businesses."

The Corvallis site is largely home to a part of HP's imaging and printing businesses.

HP has previously said internal polling shows the majority of workers support the deal. However, some of HP's surveys contained only four possible responses: "very supportive," "somewhat supportive," "not supportive at all" and "unknown." Those who answered "somewhat supportive" were counted among those in support of the deal. There was also no "somewhat unsupportive" option.

"We wouldn't tend to ask a question that way," said E. Deborah Jay, CEO of Field Research, which conducted the poll for Packard. "I think our scale is very balanced."

Jay said the Packard poll is designed to be representative of all workers in the Corvallis area, but not of HP workers in general.

Also, although HP's polling was conducted independently, the company's surveys were not all random. Some were designed to be a cross section of the company, while others were conducted after hearing a presentation from company management. Robboy said polling done after a presentation at the Corvallis and Vancouver, Wash., sites showed 76 percent of workers at those locations were supportive.

Robboy said a more recent survey of workers throughout HP, which included the "somewhat unsupportive" option still showed a majority of workers in support of the deal. "Our latest employee pulse data shows that 66 percent of employees support the merger," Robboy said.

HP opposition chart HP defended its polling method as professional. "We stand by our survey results," Robboy said. "We regularly pulse employees at different levels in different geographies and workgroups about their views of the merger through a third party using professional polling standards."

In the poll commissioned by Packard, among those who said they opposed the deal, a number of reasons were given according to the polling agency. The most common reasons were worries about the value of Compaq, and shrinking competition in the PC business, listed by 31 percent of those opposed. Lack of confidence in HP management or directors was cited by 23 percent of respondents, while 19 percent said they would like to see HP go in another direction or said the merger was bad for HP.

Fear of layoffs, worries about the risks of the deal, and concern the merger is not part of the storied "HP Way" were also commonly cited reasons among those opposed to the deal.

Among those in favor of the deal, the most common reason was that it would make HP stronger or more competitive, with 34 percent of those in favor listing that reason. The idea that the deal moves HP forward was cited by 17 percent of those in favor of the deal, while 15 percent cited their trust in management or the HP board.

Field Research said the respondents were assured of their anonymity and that HP's Corvallis site was chosen for the poll because of the high concentration of HP workers living in the area.

The survey found a generally high level of job satisfaction among HP workers, with 47 percent saying they were "very satisfied" working for HP and another 35 percent "somewhat satisfied." About 11 percent said they were "somewhat dissatisfied," while 6 percent said they were "very dissatisfied." The remaining 1 percent had no opinion.

However, 65 percent of the employees said HP is a worse place to work than when they started at the company, compared to 12 percent that said it was better. Some 19 percent of workers said there was no change in their sense of what it was like to work at HP, while 4 percent expressed no opinion.

The poll had a sampling error of roughly 5 percentage points.