IBM quietly lays off North American staff

Big Blue has laid off as many as 2,800 employees in Canada, and cuts could be coming to its U.S. locations this week, according to reports online.

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Update January 25 at 11:38 a.m. PST with comment from IBM.

IBM has been quietly laying off workers in its North American offices since Wednesday, according to numerous reports online.

IBM has not made any formal announcements yet, but IBM Director of Corporate Media Relations Doug Shelton confirmed to CNET News on Saturday that some employees were notified on January 21 that their jobs were being cut. The company would not say how many people had been laid off or in what facilities or departments those cuts were made.

Speculation about those details are rampant online. So far, more than 2,800 employees have been laid off from IBM's software, and sales and distribution divisions, according to Alliance@IBM, a Communications Workers of America affiliate attempting to organize IBM workers into a union. Comments on the Alliance@IBM Web site indicate that cuts have already been made in Toronto. And a spokesman for IBM Canada confirmed on Friday that IBM is in the process of laying off employees, some of whom were in the Canadian offices, according to ComputerWorld Canada.

Whether layoffs will make their way to the U.S. facilities (or whether they already have) hasn't been announced. A representative from Alliance@IBM told the Poughkeepsie Journal that it expects IBM will cut jobs at its facilities in Poughkeepsie and East Fishkill, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt., this week. Shelton would not comment on plans for more cuts.

The layoffs come despite the fact that IBM gave Wall Street something to smile about, with a strong earnings report earlier this week. The company said Tuesday that it beat analysts' expectations with a 12 percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings, and gave a positive outlook for 2009.

IBM's Shelton did not pin the layoffs on the economy as many other companies have. Rather, he said, "The nature of our business is such that we must constantly assess employee skills and resources and at any given time, to give IBM the flexibility to match the current and future needs of our clients. Managing resources in this way keeps us competitive, while adapting to the evolving needs of our clients." Shelton also said the company would try to help employees find other position within IBM where possible.

CNET News' sister site ZDNet Asia reported earlier this month that IBM is planning to cut 2,600 jobs across its Asia-Pacific operations.

IBM has nearly 387,000 employees worldwide, according to its Web site.