Testifying before the University of California Board of Regents, information technology workers called on the board to stop outsourcing of their work.
The University of California system in September awarded a $50 million contract to HCL, an IT staffing company in India, to take over the management of IT infrastructure and networking at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF).
As a result, 78 career and contract IT workers at UCSF will lose their jobs in February.
At the November regents meeting, IT workers like Hank Nguyen told the regents and UC President Janet Napolitano how the board’s decision will affect workers and their families.
“The day I received a bill for my daughter’s education at UC is the same day I received a layoff notice from UC,” said Nguyen. “My daughter asked me, ‘Dad, should I continue my engineering education?’ I didn’t know how to respond to my daughter or any other kids who are pursuing STEM degrees.”
Jelger Kalmijn, president of the laid off workers union, University Professional and Technical Employees CWA Local 9119, also testified. He called the board’s outsourcing decision “outrageous.”
If companies and public institutions continue to outsource our jobs, “what future do we have left,” said Kalmijn. “People in the US are sick and tired of losing our decent paying jobs. UC should not be taking leadership on sending those jobs that are our future out of here.”
Kalmijn said that UC shouldn’t be participating in “a race-to-the-bottom, where working people are fighting each other all across the world to see who can be exploited the most.”
“I urge you to take leadership and stop this outrageous outsourcing,” said Kalmijn. “It’s going to save you a couple of pennies for massive political cost, for massive financial costs in the long run, and for massive security costs. It makes absolutely no sense.”
UCSF estimates that the outsourcing contract with HCL will save the university $30 million over five years primarily due to lower labor costs.
The workers facing layoffs and their union have received support from elected officials such as US House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi wrote a letter to Napolitano urging her to “reconsider” the decision to outsource jobs at UCSF.
Pelosi noted that H-IB visas will be issued to workers hired by HCL to replace the UCSF workers, so that they can be trained for their new jobs by those being laid off.
Pelosi goes on to say that such a use of H-1B visa program contradicts the intended purpose of the law.
“The H-1B program was designed to enhance American competitiveness by supplementing the American workforce with highly skilled foreign nationals in the event of critical shortages in the US labor market,” wrote Pelosi. “Congress did not design the program to replace–to outsource–American jobs, or lower domestic wages.
US Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa also wrote Napolitano criticizing the decision to “replace American workers with lower-cost foreign workers abroad.”
The contract with HCL could have implications beyond its immediate impact on the 78 IT workers at UCSF.
UC’s outsourcing contract with HCL allows HCL to be the IT outsourcing contractor for ten campuses in the university system.
The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) has been identified as one of the campuses where HCL workers could replace UCSD workers.
Computerworld reports if that happens, there could be a potential conflict of interest.
According to Computerworld, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla is a member of the HCL board of directors.
In concluding his remarks, Kalmijn said that UC’s decision to abuse the H-1B visa program to outsource jobs puts it in league with private corporations that have attempted to do the same thing.
“UC follows in the footsteps of many private companies that have been abusing the H-1B visa program, including Southern California Edison, Abbott Laboratories, Eversource Energy, Walt Disney World, Toys “R” Us and New York Life,” said Kalmijn. “But as a public institution, the University of California’s action is even more of a slap in the face to the tech workers, their families and the UC community. We will continue to fight back against this shameful attack on good, family-supporting jobs.”