IBM (International Business Machines) was once considered a pioneer in the field of computer technology. Now the US-based conglomerate—employing more than 400,000 people worldwide—is a pioneer of a modern form of global day-wage labour. And Germany is serving as a pilot project for a radical reorganization of its existing work structures around the world.
According to an internal corporate strategy paper, obtained by Spiegel magazine, IBM will be reduced to a core workforce. Of the more than 20,000 employees in Germany, at least 8,000 will lose their permanent jobs and be replaced by flexible external workers.
The programme, called “liquid,” provides for outside workers to be hired flexibly as required. The hiring of external IT experts and other specialists is to take place via a specially created Internet platform, in the form of a so-called Cloud.
Up to now, the IT industry has regarded the Cloud as the delivery of computing as a service, with the infrastructure, hardware and software existing on internationally networked servers, effectively invisible to the user, hence, “in the Cloud.” Access is usually via the Internet. The purpose of cloud solutions is to lower costs because resources are ready at any time, but paid for only as they are used at the time needed.
This model is now to be applied broadly to people. Those currently employed as permanent staff by IBM will in future become free-lancers in an international “talent cloud.” To be part of this cloud they will have to obtain quality assurance certification as specified by IBM. It will not just be IBM, but also other businesses that will access this human cloud.
Spiegel compares the "talent-Cloud” with Facebook. As in social networks, the profiles of IT professionals—including scores (“Likeability”) and references from previous employers—will be visible for interested companies.
Positive scores—including the timely payment of credit card bills—and self-financed training courses at IBM would increase the “digital reputation” of an IT specialist.
“Personnel organised in a ‘cloud,’” the magazine quotes from the IBM document, “would receive international employment contracts, in order to circumvent restrictive regulations in their home country.” The “globalized employment contracts” would last only for the duration of individual projects. Thus, the company would reach a state “achieved long ago by the financial markets”: it could “do away with part of the national regulations.”
Permanent employees—with social security protection, guaranteed salary, paid vacations and sick leave, etc.—would be transformed into modern day-wage labourers, hired just for one project or contract for a limited time, sometimes by one firm and sometimes by another. “Such a system, where workers compete globally for temporary jobs using Internet platforms,” comments Spiegel, means, “companies such as IBM would make huge savings and increase efficiency significantly.”