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IBM Drops Objection, State Releases Layoff Number

The state says IBM has dropped its objection to the disclosure of the number of jobs cut at the company’s plant in Essex Junction. 

In the wake of IBM’s decision the state has announced that 419 people were laid off this month.

On Monday IBM told state officials that the disclosure of the layoff information would violate a provision of the public records act that protects trade secrets.

According to the state, IBM argued that the number constitutes highly sensitive and confidential commercial information.

The state says the company cited a provision of the public records act that protects information which is not readily available and which might provide a competitor with a business advantage.

But in a letter emailed to Labor Secretary Annie Noonan on Thursday the company emphasizes another worry.

The letter cites employee privacy as the reason the company was concerned about public release of the layoff information.

In explaining that IBM is dropping its objection to the release of the job cuts information, the letter says, “We are pleased that the DOL [Department of Labor] agrees that any employee identifying information…IBM submitted is exempt from public disclosure or inspection.”

The letter calls the department’s protection of individual employee information a “significant step”.

But Noonan says the department has never released that kind of information and has always considered the names of laid off workers confidential.

Noonan says there was never a disagreement with IBM over that issue.

“There was not ever a dispute between the department and IBM that that information would be held confidential,” she explained.

“I’m not sure why they didn’t understand that right from the beginning. Potentially that got lost in the translation between Vermont IBM and us, with potentially other folks in the IBM corporate world.  We never intended to release any employee specific information.”

Noonan says she’s pleased the company has changed its position.   Of the 419 employees released by IBM, she says about 350 have contacted the Department of Labor.

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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