IT workers rally against offshore labor

IDG News Service | Nov 15, 2016

IT employees from University of California San Francisco rallied together to voice concerns over the university's use of offshore labor.

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Track 1: IT workers from the University of California, San Francisco are taking to the streets to voice their concerns over the university’s decision to outsource some 80 jobs to India.

Track 2: The layoffs are scheduled to take effect at the end of February, but prior to their last day, IT employees will be expected to train their foreign replacements. That’s put some individuals in a very uncomfortable situation.

SOT: “It is very awkward to sense that you are training someone to take over your job. And you have a timeline that you are not going to be coming back to the university because you have to share all your knowledge with someone so that he or she is up to speed to take over your job. It’s not because you are unwilling to do the job, you’ve been replaced essentially.” – Ho

Track 3: But this layoff may have even bigger implications. Ryan Detert works in the IT department at UC Davis and worries about the effect outsourcing might have on his university.

SOT: “If UCSF thinks that this is worthwhile for them, then this could very easily spread to all the other campuses and I believe the contract is actually open-ended so there is room for the other campuses to actually come in on this contract.” – Detert

Track 4: Outsourcing like this, while common in the private sector, is unusual for public institutions like the University of California. While there is precedent for publicly supported institutions to contract with offshore firms, it’s usually done to supplement existing projects or open up new positions, not altogether replace existing staff with a cheaper alternative.

Track 5: It’s an issue that Donald Trump addressed early on in his campaign, promising to end the practice of giving H-1B visas to skilled workers.

FULL SCREEN: “It’s very bad for business. And it’s bad for our workers. And we should end it.”

Track 6: He has since taken a softer position on the issue, but labor attorney, Sara Blackwell, says H-1B reform is not the answer. That’s because paying offshore workers is still much cheaper than paying for workers to immigrate into the country on a visa.

“When they come in on a visa like H-1B or L visas, you’re still paying them $40-50 thousand a year plus you’re paying the middle man. When your worker is making $80,000/year it’s not that big of a savings. Where the savings are really big is when you offshore all the work.” - Blackwell

Track 7: Following the rally, UCSF came out with a statement saying quote:

STATEMENT 1: “UCSF has followed all applicable laws and UC policy in determining to restructure a small portion of its IT services/operations.”

STATEMENT 2: “UCSF is working with other campuses across the UC system to identify alternative IT positions for the affected employees within the system.

Track 8: With three months to the deadline, many affected employees are already looking for new jobs.

“I didn’t think being 43 that you are actually old, but you are. I’m finding that out now. It’s been a little difficult trying to find another job though.” - Tateo

Track 9: For IDG News Service, I’m Magdalena Petrova in San Francisco.