BofA: Train Your Replacements, Or No Severance Pay For You

David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle, June 9, 2006

Bank of America has been steadily moving thousands of tech jobs to India. The latest to go are about 100 positions that handle BofA’s internal tech support.

While many of the bank’s Bay Area techies accept the inevitability of their jobs heading abroad, what rankles them is the fact that, in many cases, they’re being told they have to first train the Indians who are getting their gigs.

“If people want their severance packages, they have to train their replacements,” a senior engineer at one of BofA’s Bay Area facilities told me. “There’s nothing in writing that says this—the bank’s been careful about that. But it’s made clear at meetings what we’re supposed to do.”

Shirley Norton, a BofA spokeswoman, confirmed that while workers aren’t being explicitly told they have to train their replacements or risk losing severance pay, they are being instructed that severance pay is contingent on satisfactorily completing their jobs.

Completing their jobs, in turn, can include training replacements from India, she said.

“I know that’s parsing things a bit,” Norton acknowledged. “What we ask associates to do as part of getting severance is that they stay on the job until the job is transitioned.

“It’s a common practice when your job is being transferred from one person to another that you train the new person,” she added. “We expect our people to stay until their jobs are consolidated.”

Making workers train someone from India to take their jobs away isn’t unique to BofA. Other U.S. companies reportedly have done the same in recent years.

But BofA stands out because it acknowledged earlier this year that it understands how much the practice offends its U.S. employees.

Barbara Desoer, BofA’s chief technology exec, told BusinessWeek magazine in January that she was aware how much grumbling it caused when workers at the bank’s Concord technology center were told they’d have to bring their Indian replacements up to speed before being shown the door.

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