Southern California Edison IT Workers ‘Beyond Furious’ over H-1B Replacements

Patrick Thibodeau, Computer World, February 4, 2015

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.

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SCE employees said that since August, when the layoffs began, the composition of the IT workplace began to change. “I see a lot of Indian people walking the halls, and less Americans,” said a third IT worker interviewed.

Employee observations of an increasing number of foreign workers in their workplace is backed up by U.S. Labor Department filings. Employers have to file wage data of foreign workers and their workplace location with federal authorities in a form called a Labor Condition Application (LCA). In Irwindale, California, where SCE runs a major part of its IT operations, the two offshore companies had as many as 180 LCAs, and in a random check of these applications, every address matched an SCE location.

Displaced IT workers have long protested and complained about the use of H-1B workers, but they are overshadowed by large tech companies that lead H-1B lobbying efforts in Washington. IT workers are also effectively silenced through severance agreements that include non-disparagement clauses and confidentiality provisions, as well as fears that public complaining may hurt re-employment prospects.

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