The federal government has determined that about a quarter of the 419 IBM workers laid off last summer lost their jobs due to foreign competition and imports.

The state Department of Labor had petitioned the federal government for the ruling.  The decision entitles the workers to additional federal support for retraining programs.

Rose Lucenti is the department’s workforce development director. She said 115 IBM employees and contractors who worked at the company’s Williston facility now qualify for the retraining assistance.

Senator Bernie Sanders with Governor Peter Shumlin at a Nov. 4, 2013 press event announcing the solar test center.
Taylor Dobbs / VPR

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Gov. Peter Shumlin announced a new, federally funded solar site in Williston on Monday designed to host experimental solar technology.

Sandia National Laboratories is responsible for management of the Williston location and four others across the nation ­– mostly in the south and southwest. The importance of the Vermont site, officials said, is that it will help the nation’s solar industry improve solar technology for cold weather areas.

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.

AP/Toby Talbot

IBM has provided the state with details about the number of jobs cut at its Essex Junction plant, but it wants the state to keep the information from the public. 

The company claims that releasing the number could harm it.

The number of employees given pink slips in Essex Junction a month ago has been the subject of much speculation for weeks. 

Under Vermont law IBM is required to inform the state of mass layoffs and respond to requests for additional information. 

VPR/Annie Russelll

IBM still has not disclosed the exact number of employees it has laid off from its Essex manufacturing plant.

The company told the workers a month ago that their jobs were being eliminated. And the state expected to know by now the exact number who were let go.

The lack of detailed information frustrates some of the former IBM workers who attended a job fair on Monday.

The job fair drew about 80 Vermont companies and several hundred job-seekers who were recently separated from IBM.

There’s still no official word on the exact number of layoffs at the IBM plant in Essex Junction. 

The deadline for the company to inform the state was this past weekend, and state officials believe that the company is cutting hundreds of jobs. 

Meanwhile the labor department has organized a job fair today for displaced workers.

The department had hoped 80 employers with immediate openings would express an interest in attending the fair.  Labor commissioner Annie Noonan says the interest has been even greater than anticipated.

The state is still waiting to hear how many jobs are being cut at IBM’s Essex Junction plant.

The company told officials last month that employees were being laid off and it's believed the number of jobs is in the hundreds, but the state isn’t sure and the uncertainty is prompting talk of changing the rules that require companies to inform the state of large layoffs.

IBM has done nothing wrong under state rules which require companies to inform the state within 24 hours when 25 or more employees are terminated.


Friday 7/12/13 at Noon & 7PM: At least 340 IBM employees are being laid off at the Essex Junction plant this month, and the number will likely be higher when it becomes official on Friday. We talk with Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan about the state's programs to assist laid off IBMers, and with economist Art Woolf about the role of IBM in the state’s economy.

Vermont's largest hospital is now state's largest private employer. Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington says it employs 7,100 people. 

That’s a significantly larger workforce than at the nearby IBM plant in Essex Junction, which was Vermont’s largest private employer for many years. 

Layoffs in recent years have resulted in a decline in the number of IBM jobs; from a high of more than 8,000 to an estimated 4,000 today in Chittenden County. The company does not release information on employee numbers.

Toby Talbot / AP File Photo

After a disappointing first quarter earnings report, IBM announced there will be layoffs in the second quarter.  The company says most of the job cuts would take place outside the U.S. but in recent days there have been rumors that cuts are imminent at domestic IBM facilities, including in Vermont.

Despite the fact IBM employs fewer people than it once did at the Essex Junction plant, IBM's fortunes are still important to the state’s job picture and its economy.