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Layoffs Announced At IBM Essex Junction Plant

AP File/Toby Talbot

A new round of layoffs has hit the IBM plant in Chittenden County.

After several weeks of speculation, Governor Peter Shumlin announced today that IBM has told the state it is laying off workers at its Essex Junction facility.

The exact number isn't known and the company says it will not discuss the layoffs.

In a prepared statement, IBM said, "Change is constant in the technology industry, and transformation is an essential feature of our business model. Consequently, some level of workforce remix is a constant requirement for our business. Given the competitive nature of our industry, we do not publicly discuss the details of staffing plans."

"Our understanding is that layoff notifications will be issued today," says Annie Noonan, Vermont's Labor Commissioner. "Whether it's more than today, I don’t know.  We’ve just been notified that they will be announcing layoffs today."

Employers are required to notify the state within 24 hours when 25 or more workers are laid off. Noonan says she anticipates IBM will do that Thursday.

She says the job cuts in Essex Junction are apparently not significant enough to trigger a federal law called the WARN Act which requires large employers to give advance notice when more than 500 workers or more than one-third of the workforce are laid off. 

The job cuts in Essex Junction are part of cutbacks nationwide. IBM announced there would be layoffs earlier this year when company earnings were lower than anticipated.

Noonan says the labor department has mobilized personnel and resources to help displaced workers. She says Vermont’s low unemployment rate and a strong job market should help cushion the blow for those who have lost their jobs. 

"With Vermont employers telling me that they are consistently looking for workers, we have a pretty extensive inventory of current job openings," she explains. "I think the IBM workforce as a whole is considered to be skilled so I think they will be highly desirable for those Vermont employers that are looking."

IBM employs approximately 4,000 people at the Essex Junction facility. That's about half the number of people once employed there. 

In a statement released this morning, Governor Shumlin says the company has told him it remains committed to Vermont. 

"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," Shumlin says.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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