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At Hertz IT, sheriffs, shock and tough choices

Patrick Thibodeau | March 11, 2016
Around 75 of 300 Hertz IT workers will move to IBM.

Mass IT layoffs are often small and unnoticed. They are not on the scale of the Carrier air conditioning plant layoff; its Indianapolis facility, which currently employs 2,000 people, is moving to Mexico.

Hertz IT employees share two things with the Carrier workers: They were also angry, and they got the news on the same day, Feb. 10.

The Carrier layoffs arrived guillotine-like; the plant is closing, period. But IT layoffs are rarely like that. There are ambiguities and uncertainties and lifeboats for some, and so it was at Hertz.

In an early morning conference call, Hertz's IT employees were told by the CIO the firm was expanding its outsourcing work with IBM. It wasn't known then how many would lose their jobs or ultimately be hired by IBM.

But one month later, this much is clear: About 300 Hertz IT employees, most located in Oklahoma City, were impacted by this decision. IBM is hiring about 75 and those workers are expecting to receive offers today. The layoffs will begin this month and be completed by May 31, said Hertz. It's not yet clear if all the 225 or so employees who are not receiving job offers from IBM will be laid off.

After the conference call, employees were stunned. The reaction was, "We're screwed," said an IT employee, one of two interviewed, who requested his name not be used.

There was "anger, resentment," especially by employees who "sacrificed that work/life balance to keep things going here," said the employee.

Hertz took precautions. On the day that IT employees learned that their work was shifting to IBM, employees noticed Oklahoma sheriff patrol vehicles in the building's parking lot. They believed plainclothes officers were inside the building.

Hertz explained the security decision. "We consider the safety and security of our people whenever there are circumstances or events that could increase the risk of a disturbance or some form of workplace violence," said Bill Masterson, a Hertz spokesman.

"Knowing that this was a difficult announcement, we had additional security on hand," said Masterson. This security was in place from Wednesday Feb. 10 through Friday, Feb. 12.

There were two opinions about the security, said the employees. Some saw it as prudent, while others thought it a sign of distrust. There were no reported problems.

Once the initial shock passed, Hertz IT employees had to make difficult choices.

Employees' severance packages range from four weeks to a year, said Hertz. For the long-term employees expecting a large severance, a job with IBM may not be worth it.

"I don't think anybody thinks that being rebadged to IBM is anything other than a one year-stay of execution," said another IT worker.


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