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Fury and fear in Ohio as IT jobs go to India

Patrick Thibodeau | Nov. 10, 2015
IT workers are training their replacements.

outsourcing employees ts

The IT workers at Cengage Learning in the company's Mason, Ohio offices learned of their fates game-show style. First, they were told to gather in a large conference room. There were vague remarks from an IT executive about a "transition." Slides were shown that listed employee names, directing them to one of three rooms where they would be told specifically what was happening to them. Some employees were cold with worry.

The biggest group, those getting pink slips, were told to remain in the large conference room. Workers directed to go through what we'll call Door No. 2, were offered employment with IT offshore outsourcing firm Cognizant. That was the smallest group. And those sent through Door No. 3 remained employed in Cengage's IT department. This happened in mid-October.

"I was so furious," said one of the IT workers over what happened. It seemed "surreal," said another. There was disbelief, but little surprise. Cengage, a major producer of educational content and services, had outsourced accounting services earlier in the year. The IT workers rightly believed they were next.

The employees were warned that speaking to the news media meant loss of severance. Despite their fears, they want their story told. They want people to know what's happening to IT jobs in the heartland. They don't want the offshoring of their livelihoods to pass in silence.

The employees remaining at Cengage have begun training their replacements in person and via the Web. Their work is being "shadowed" and recorded. Their jobs will end in January.

Cengage, in an email statement, acknowledged a reduction in the workforce of 75 positions. An additional 20 positions have been moved to Cognizant and most employees have accepted those positions, the firm said.

Susan Aspey, senior vice president of public affairs for Cengage Learning, said in an emailed statement that the "business is evolving and we now serve more customers with software than print materials.

"Over a period of nearly a year, we reviewed our technology systems and staffing," Aspey wrote. "We were very transparent with the team about this process. We determined that we needed a more flexible staffing model that could better serve the cyclical nature of our business, and a different model of software support for our customers. To do this quickly and efficiently, we needed the support of an outside partner. We chose Cognizant, a U.S. firm that supports several companies in the education industry.

"This was a very difficult decision, as we value all of our nearly 4,000 U.S. employees and their contributions."

Cognizant, based in Teaneck, N.J., employees about 219,000 people, most of them in offshore locations.

 

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