Are big layoffs coming to Big Blue? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Are big layoffs coming to Big Blue?

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The IBM workers union says it got ahold of an internal memo indicating job cuts are coming in Essex Junction. The document suggests layoffs at the end of the month. Meanwhile, the state is trying to get companies like IBM to be more forthcoming about job cuts before they happen.

"It's really sad to see this happen," said Earl Mongeon of Alliance@IBM.

The workers union Alliance@IBM received an anonymous tip the company will be laying off workers by the end of February.

"That the job cuts are coming and this time around I guess they're going to notify the state. Any time they notify the state that usually triggers the WARN Act, which means it's going to be over 500 employees," Mongeon said.

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act is a federal law which requires employers to provide notice of layoffs. The Essex Junction branch of IBM laid off 419 workers of its estimated 5,500 workers last June, and now there may be more Vermonters out of work.

"They're going to join the millions of other Americans searching for a job, trying to find a job, trying to get another decent paying job," Mongeon said.

IBM has not commented on the upcoming layoffs. But the commissioner of the Vt. Department of Labor, Annie Noonan, is pushing for a law to help workers in Vermont.

"We would require businesses of 20 or more employees in Vermont to notify the department 90 days ahead of time," Noonan said.

She says because the federal WARN Act does not cover layoffs under 500 people; the state version would help more Vermonters with unemployment, and also create opportunities for them to find work again. Noonan says the law will also allow the labor department to give notice to the public of a company laying employees off, which they are currently unable to do.

"Really about the local community and communities that may be impacted and other businesses in the area reliant on that employer who may be closing their door, shifting operations," Noonan said.

Those employed at IBM are bracing themselves in case they need to start looking for another job.

"These guys, they're what made IBM and Essex what it is today," Mongeon said.

Noonan says she hopes the state WARN Act will take effect this year and that the Department of Labor will be able to give workers who are about to be laid off as much notice as possible.

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