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Southern California Edison IT workers 'beyond furious' over H-1B replacements

Patrick Thibodeau | Feb. 5, 2015
About 500 IT jobs are cut at utility through layoffs and voluntary departures

Information technology workers at Southern California Edison (SCE) are being laid off and replaced by workers from India. Some employees are training their H-1B visa holding replacements, and many have already lost their jobs.

The employees are upset and say they can't understand how H-1B guest workers can be used to replace them.

The IT organization's "transition effort" is expected to result in about 400 layoffs, with "another 100 or so employees leaving voluntarily," SCE said in a statement. The "transition," which began in August, will be completed by the end of March, the company said.

"They are bringing in people with a couple of years' experience to replace us and then we have to train them," said one longtime IT worker. "It's demoralizing and in a way I kind of felt betrayed by the company."

SCE, Southern California's largest utility, has confirmed the layoffs and the hiring of Infosys, based in Bangalore, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Mumbai. They are two of the largest users of H-1B visas.

The utility has a large IT department. In 2012, before any layoffs, it had about 1,800 employees, plus an additional 1,500 contract workers.

Computerworld interviewed, separately, four affected SCE IT employees. They agreed to talk on the condition that their names not be used.

The IT employees at SCE are "beyond furious," said a second IT worker.

The H-1B program "was supposed to be for projects and jobs that American workers could not fill," this worker said. "But we're doing our job. It's not like they are bringing in these guys for new positions that nobody can fill.

"Not one of these jobs being filled by India was a job that an Edison employee wasn't already performing," he said.

SCE said the transition to Infosys and Tata "will lead to enhancements that deliver faster and more efficient tools and applications for services that customers rely on. Through outsourcing, SCE's information technology organization will adopt a proven business strategy commonly and successfully used by top U.S. companies that SCE benchmarks against."

The employees say that some of SCE's U.S. workers have been training their replacements, either in person in SCE's IT offices or over Web sessions with workers in India. The IT workers say the Indian tech workers do not have the skill levels of the people they are replacing.

The SCE outsourcing "is one more case, in a long line of them, of injustice where American workers are being replaced by H-1Bs," said Ron Hira, a public policy professor at Howard University, and a researcher on offshore outsourcing. "Adding to the injustice, American workers are being forced to do 'knowledge transfer,' an ugly euphemism for being forced to train their foreign replacements. Americans should be outraged that most of our politicians have sat idly by while outsourcing firms have hijacked the guest worker programs."

 

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