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IBM Poised For Major U.S. Job Cuts, Workers Say

Published reports suggest Big Blue may ax up to 5,000 services employees.

Officials at a group that comprises current and former IBM workers claim Big Blue is on the verge of major job cuts in the United States starting as soon as Thursday.

Messages on a Web site maintained by the group, Alliance@IBM, said the cuts could number in the thousands. One post on the group's member forum referred to the job action as "Black Thursday."

Published reports said the cuts could number as high as 5,000 and would be drawn mostly from IBM's services group.

IBM officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

IBM's U.S. workforce has been declining in numbers in recent years as the company looks to expand its presence in low-cost, high-growth markets such as India and China. IBM employed 115,000 workers in the United States in 2008, down from 127,000 in 2006. The company now employs more than 70,000 workers in India.

If the cuts occur, they would add to layoffs that IBM undertook earlier this year -- when it eliminated about 4,000 workers from its ranks, according to Alliance members.

IBM may be looking to trim its sails in advance of some significant corporate activity. The Wall Street Journal last week reported that the company is in talks to acquire Sun Microsystems for about $6.5 billion. IBM also may be interested in acquiring on-the-block Indian outsourcer Satyam, which is seeking to emerge from an accounting scandal that has seen its chairman and several executives jailed.

Under a program called Project Match, IBM will help workers laid off from domestic sites obtain travel and visa assistance for countries in which it has openings. Mostly that's developing markets like India, China, and Brazil.

"IBM has established Project Match to help you locate potential job opportunities in growth markets where your skills are in demand," IBM says in an internal notice on the initiative.

IBM shares were virtually flat in Wednesday trading, finishing the day at $97.95.

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