Fury and Fear in Ohio as IT Jobs Go to India

Patrick Thibodeau, Computer World, November 9, 2015

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.

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

It’s not clear how many people Cognizant employs in the U.S., but in 2013, David Amsden, the form’s vice president of human resources, put that number at 27,000. Overall, Cognizant employed more than 171,000 at that point. (Computerworld has asked Cognizant for an updated number.)

Cengage employees offered a job with Cognizant had little choice but to take it. If they rejected the offer, they would leave without severance, said IT workers. The severance offered is two weeks of pay per year of service.

The Web-based workers that the Cengage employees are training to take over their jobs are believed to be in India.

Cognizant applies for thousands of H-1B visas annually, and is one of the top three users of the visa, according to government data. Cengage employees reached for comment didn’t know what visa, if any, the contract workers in their offices were using. But they said some of these workers spoke a foreign language in the office, along with English.

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