Outsourcing American jobs to foreign workers is nothing new in Silicon Valley – replacing IT jobs with H-1B visa workers has become a major issue – but now it is happening at a public university.
In an alarming move, the University of California San Francisco has notified about 80 information tech workers they will be laid off in February – but first they are training their replacements, via videoconferencing to India.
UCSF had signed a $50 million contract with an employment firm in India, HCL Technologies, and say they expect to save $30 million over the next five years by hiring the lower-paid tech workers.
Most of the work is expected to be done in India, although some foreign IT employees may be brought to work on the UCSF campus through the H-1B visa program, reports Mercury News.
The move has raised red flags among other UCSF employees, lawmakers and concerned advocates.
“I don’t know of any other university that’s done this,” said Ron Hira, a Howard University professor who studies immigration and outsourcing. “At some point, you start to cross these ethical lines.”
UCSF operates on a $5.4 billion annual budget, and offers graduate degrees in medicine, nursing, dentistry and pharmacy.
Employees say it could endanger medical data, and will leave the UCSF Medical Center staff with inferior service.
UCSF employee, Keith Pavlik, said, “It is an attempt to experiment with privatization and outsourcing. Ultimately it will fail and it should fail.”
The school claims the new contracts for Indian workers will “not only increase savings but also strengthen cyber security and enhance IT quality and consistency.”
Employees being laid off include 49 career employees and 30 contractors. The career employees will reportedly receive up to six months’ severance. In interviews, several UCSF employees said that many of the IT workers being replaced have been with the university for at least a decade.
U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren wrote a letter to UC President Janet Napolitano asking her to reverse the decision, and said replacing workers with H-1B visa holders is a misuse of the visa, in addition to raising “serious public policy concerns” about patient safety and privacy.
“I think it is proper to expect our major public institutions, such as the University of California, to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the law,” Lofgren said.
Ironically, when Napolitano was Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration, she criticized abuse of H-1B visas, saying in May 2009, “Our top obligations are to American workers, making sure American workers have jobs.”
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