IT workers take a stand against “outrageous outsourcing”

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.”

Union fights employer abuse of H-1B visas to save jobs

A California union is urging members and supporters to sign a petition telling the University of California System President Janet Napolitano to stop the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) from outsourcing information technology jobs .

The University Professional and Technical Employees-CWA Local 9119 (UPTE) is fighting to save the jobs of union members and others affected by UCSF”s decision to replace 17 percent of its IT staff with IT workers hired by HCL Technologies.

HCL Technologies is one of India’s largest IT workforce providers and is currently being sued in the US for abusing the H-1B visa program, which allows foreign nationals to work in the US when they have specialized business skills, which are in short supply in the US. Workers with H-1B visas are not supposed to be used to displace US workers.

UPTE said that it if these layoffs are allowed to stand more could follow and that the petition is only the first step in a fight to stop the layoffs.

“This could be the tip of the iceberg, and who knows what department is next to sell off our livelihoods?” said UPTE in a message to members. “UPTE is prepared to take action, starting with (this) petition. There will be more action items to come,.”

In September, Computerworld reported that the UCSF had signed a five-year, $50 million contract with HCL Technologies to take over a portion of the university’s IT work.

After the contract with HCL was signed, UCSF sent layoff notices to 49 of its career IT staff members, 12 contract workers, and 18 employees of a UCSF vendor.

The layoffs become effective in February.

A UCSF IT worker told Computerworld that UCSF’s decision to outsource IT work would hinder the university’s ability to innovate, and would result in the loss of a wealth of institutional knowledge. The employee also said that the contract with HCL, which UCSF says will save $30 million, puts cost reductions ahead of its mission to be the best provider of health care services.

In addition to educating undergraduate and graduate students, UCSF operates a teaching medical center where doctors and nurses are trained.

The IT workers affected by the layoffs resulting from the outsourcing contract mainly serve the UCSF medical center.

UCSF announced the deal with HCL months after two IT workers in Florida filed suits against HCL and two other companies for abusing the H-1B visa program.

The two IT workers, Leo Perrero and Dena Moore, had worked for Walt Disney World in Orlando, but they along with 250 other IT workers were laid off when Disney contracted out their work to HCL and Cognizant, an IT consulting company.

The New York Times reports that the two separate suits charge HCL, Cognizant, and Disney with colluding to break the law by using workers with H-1B visas to displace US workers.

The two suits have subsequently been consolidated into a class action suit, and the US Labor Department has opened an investigation into the matter.

In its petition to President Napolitano, the union says that, “As a public institution, UC should not be in the business of using legal loopholes and private firms to undermine UC employment” and urges Napolitano to “put the mission of the University first and halt (this outsourcing) immediately!”

Unions protest shared services layoffs at UC Berkeley

Union members at the University of California Berkeley (UC) on February 4 delivered a petition to UC leaders urging them to stop the layoffs of 28 employees who work for the university’s Campus Shared Services.

Campus Shared Services (CSS) is a centralized administrative unit that provides academic support services such as information technology, human resources, finance, and research administration to faculty and students.

The idea of centralizing administrative service at UC first surfaced in 2010 when a consulting firm called Bain & Company recommended doing so.

Bain & Company estimated that centralizing administrative support services could save UC between $12 million and $15 million a year.

UC leaders said that they needed to find ways to save money because state funding was declining.

In 2013, UC began implementing CSS.

Almost as soon as UC decided to centralize support services, unions representing campus workers warned that doing so would lead to layoffs and diminished services.

CSS was implemented gradually. Full implementation was finally complete in March 2015.

In November, the first layoff notices were sent out, and the University Professional and Technical Employees CWA Local 9119 and Teamsters Local 2010, which represent the laid off workers, began a campaign to stop the layoffs.

On February 4, members of both unions demonstrated in front of UC’s administration building and delivered the petition to a representative of UC Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

The petition said that centralized shared services had not delivered the efficiencies that the consultants had predicted and that “cutting jobs at CSS won’t eliminate the problems we all know exist with CSS, it will only make them worse.”

Those at the February 4 demonstration had the same message,

“Layoffs (are) not really going to solve the problem of making workloads more efficient, which is what CSS was created to do,” said Alicia Flores, an administrative assistant at UC, who took part in a union sponsored demonstration.

Before CSS was implemented some faculty also warned that centralizing support services would create inefficiencies rather than efficiencies.

Their warnings proved to be prescient.

The Daily Californian reports that a 2014 survey of faculty found that half were spending more time on routine matters previously performed by support staff.

According to Panos Papadopoulos, chair of the Academic Senate, survey responses about the performance of CSS were “overwhelmingly negative.”

Sam Davis, professor emeritus of architecture, in a 2015 blog post laid out some of the problems that centralized shared services created.

For one thing, writes Davis, “Placing 600 University employees on 4th Street (two miles from campus) was problematic from the beginning.”

“Separating the management and administration from its academic and intellectual enterprise undermines a main motivation for employees, creates a caste system, and limits collaborative problem solving. We are not making widgets,” writes Davis.

Davis also notes that the separation of CSS support staff from the campus has created more work for staff who remain on campus because interfacing with CSS is so difficult.

Problems created by CSS have, according to Davis, caused some schools and colleges at UC to hire additional staff despite tight budgets.

Davis goes on to write that “it is unclear whether CSS is saving money, but I doubt it.”

“Savings must be offset against the cost of purchasing and operating the new building,” which according to Davis cost $24 million.

In fact the original cost savings estimated by Bain & Company to be $12 million to $15 million a year were subsequently scaled back to about $6 million a year.

In 2014, reported cost savings amounted to $2.1 million.

An opinion piece appearing in the Daily Californian put the implementation of CSS at UC in a much wider context.

According to the opinion piece’s authors, centralized shared services is being implemented on other campuses and in the private sector “across the US economy.”

The effect has been the deskilling and division of  work in order to save money. The cost savings rarely end up resulting in better services, but they do benefit those at the top of the organization.

“The benefits of ‘streamlining,’ ‘efficiencies’ and the like ultimately accrue to the of upper-level managers, who are rewarded for perceived cost-savings at the expense of quality of service,” write the authors, Dan Russell, who works in CSS, Jean Day, the president UPTE, and Lyn Hejinian, a John F. Hotchkis professor of English at UC.

UPTE and Local 2010 said that the petition urging the administration to halt the layoffs is only the first step in the fight to stop the layoffs and prevent future layoffs.

Local 2010 has filed two grievances charging that the layoffs have violated the union’s collective bargaining agreement with UC.

“UC faculty, staff and students have a vested interest in standing together with workers at CSS for a university that serves all our interests — and those of the vast majority of Californians — not simply those of the few who stand to profit from a leaner, less effective and frankly demoralized group of campus workers,” write Russell, Day, and Hejinian.