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October 13, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

From January 1 of next year, virtually all important management activities within IBM Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg and IBM Ireland – don’t say Eire, it rubs the Dublin office up the wrong way – are to be handled from one location: a small office in Antwerp, Belgium, under the name IBM North-West. A similar thing has happened recently in Scandinavia – cost-cutting seemingly behind both cases. In a press briefing in Brussels last week, IBM Belgium’s personnel director, Jan Manhaeve, said IBM North-West would employ between 15 and 20 people and will handle financial, planning, management of information systems, administration, marketing support (local marketing will still be carried out by the country division), international responsibilities, management services, personnel and communication activities. IBM Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg – understandable enough, given the established consensus of Benelux as a manageable geographic entity; but why Eire? According to Manhaeve, Eire firstly is a similarly small country and, besides, any collaboration between Eire and England was avoided for political reasons. Questioned further, he confirmed that he did mean national rather than company politics, but he refused to say exactly what political considerations were at stake. Peter Squire, commenting from IBM in Dublin, said it was purely a matter of culture – IBM Ireland has only 370 employees and its structure has a lot more in common with European siblings IBM Luxemburg, Netherlands and Belgium, than with the relatively giant IBM UK. Squire hastened to point out that IBM Ireland and IBM UK maintain a good relationship, but pointed out that IBM Ireland has always reported to IBM Europe and not the UK, for the reasons just cited. He didn’t feel that anything significant in the way of cost-cutting could be achieved by bringing IBM UK and IBM Ireland closer together. IBM North-West is to operate independently, but is legally a division of IBM Belgium. Ostensibly the centralisation is intended to bring decisions coming from IBM Europe closer to the client, and end a situation where the same task was being carried out several times by the different country branches, but clearly cost reductions are the most important factor. All in all, 1,000 jobs are expected to be lost at IBM Netherlands in the next three years (this includes redundancies resulting from an on-going rationalisation programme), while IBM Belgium is now looking to shed 100 employees this year, 130 next (in contrast to its previously stated 80-a-year-for-two-years target) for a total of cut 350 in three years.

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