1st July 02:39
American computer programmers face ultimate insult: Training overseas replacements (spokeswoman)
The two overbearing 2004 election issues: [a] high & rising energy
(oil&natural gas) prices; [b] increasing (especially service/IT) job
Sunday, August 10, 2003 (AP)
American computer programmers face ultimate insult:
Training overseas replacements
RACHEL KONRAD, AP Business Writer
(08-10) 10:28 PDT SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) --
Scott Kirwin clung to his job at a large investment bank through several
rounds of layoffs last year. Friends marveled at the computer programmer's
ability to dodge pink slips during the worst technology downturn in a
But it was tough for Kirwin, 36, to relish his final assignment: training
a group of programmers from India who would replace him within a year.
"They called it `knowledge acquisition,"' the Wilmington, Del., resident
said. "We got paid our normal salaries to train people to do our jobs. The
market was so bad we couldn't really do anything about it, so we taught
Finally laid off in April, Kirwin sent out 225 resumes before landing a
temporary position without benefits at a smaller bank -- and swallowing a
20 percent pay cut.
Kirwin is among what appears to be a growing number of American technology
workers training their foreign replacements -- a humiliating assignment
many say they assume unwittingly or reluctantly, simply to stay on the job
longer or secure a meager severance package.
Their plight can be seen as an unintended consequence of the nation's
non-immigrant visa program -- particularly the L-1 classification. The L-1
allows companies to transfer workers from overseas offices to the United
States for up to seven years -- ostensibly to familiarize them with
corporate culture or to import workers with "specialized knowledge."
It also lets companies continue paying workers their home country wage.
Indian workers receive roughly one-sixth the hourly wage of the average
American programmer, who makes about $60 per hour in wages and benefits.
Large technology companies say the L-1 helps them staff offices in
less-developed companies with workers who understand the needs of a global
corporation. And some labor experts say out-of-work programmers should
stop complaining, and focus on their own re-training, just like the Rust
Belt assembly line workers whose factory jobs migrated to Mexico and Asia
in the 1980s.
But unemployed tech workers contend that so many good jobs are going to
places like Bombay, Bangalore and Beijing that honing their technical
skills is futile. According to the research firm Gartner Inc., one out of
10 technology jobs in the United States will move overseas by the end of
"Once I figured out what was going on, I was disgusted," said Kevin
Sherman, a 47-year-old programmer and technical author from Worthington,
Ohio, who was working for Manifest Corp., an information systems
consulting firm in Upper Arlington, Ohio.
Sherman held onto his $62,000-per-year contract job while he taught
several dozen Indian workers how to build and maintain computer databases
in 1999 and 2000. He quit rather than take on his next assignment: fixing
the newly trained foreigners' broken PCs. He's been unemployed for two
Nancy Matijasich, Manifest president and CEO, said she no longer employs
L-1 workers like those Sherman trained, because the Y2K threat has passed
and the company has less need for programmers.
"There was a shortage of skills in the '90s," Matijasich said. "But we
haven't processed visas in a long time."
The State Department issued 28,098 L-1 visas from October to March, the
first half of fiscal 2003. That's an increase of nearly 7 percent from the
same period in 2002.
But the number of L-1 workers in the United States is likely much higher,
said Charlie Oppenheim, the State Department's chief of immigrant visa
control. Each L-1 lets a worker enter the United States multiple times
over several years.
There is no limit on the number of L-1 workers companies may import each
year. Legislation introduced last month by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.,
seeks an annual limit of 35,000 L-1 workers nationwide.
By contrast, tight controls govern the H-1B visa, which requires companies
to pay workers the prevailing American wage. The H-1B cap is scheduled to
be reduced from 195,000 workers to 65,000 per year on Oct. 1.
Tech bellwethers including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems, Oracle and
Microsoft use L-1 workers but won't disclose how many they import. Many
bring in workers through consulting firms, usually Indian companies such
as Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies and Wipro Technologies.
Intel spokeswoman Gail Dundas acknowledged that the world's largest
chipmaker relies on Americans to train L-1 workers who staff the company's
offices in Russia, India, China and other high-growth markets. But she
says the Intel training program does not result in American layoffs.
"If someone does something really well, we want the person who's going to
perform a similar function abroad to learn from the master. Then the
person in the United States will continue to do their job just as before,"
Intel provides L-1 workers a cost-of-living adjustment if they work at the
Santa Clara headquarters or elsewhere in the United States. Intel pays for
housing, cars, return trips to the workers' home countries and full
medical benefits -- a package that ends up costing significantly more than
hiring an American, she said.
Dallas-based Texas Instruments also imports L-1 electrical engineers. With
U.S. colleges graduating fewer U.S.-born engineers and the population of
foreign-born science graduates mushrooming, TI has to look overseas for
talent, spokesman Dan Larson said.
"You have a declining pool from which to draw, and more of those people
are foreign nationals," Larson said. "If you're a company looking to hire
electrical engineers, you're obliged to hire the best and brightest from
Sunil Mehta, vice president of NASSCOM, a New Delhi-based trade
association for Indian software companies, claims the L-1 program has
created about 1.5 million jobs in the United States since it began in
Still, NASSCOM and a U.S. counterpart, the Information Technology
Association of America, acknowledge that some companies exploit loopholes.
ITAA published guidelines for members on July 29, suggesting that
companies pay the prevailing U.S. wage and import only those foreigners
who have skills lacking in America.
"Similar visas exist in 20 to 25 other countries, including India," Mehta
said. "I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bath water
because of a few loopholes."
Michael Emmons says he's already become an L-1 casualty. The 41-year-old
software developer moved from California to Florida in 2001 after Siemens,
his contract employer, merged with another company. He was supposed to
help migrate disparate software into a single system, but he and a dozen
co-workers ended up training Indian +eplacements to connect systems using
Emmons, who quit the Siemens job after being told his position would be
terminated, is now lobbying politicians to abolish the L-1. He's also
considering a career in politics -- running on an "American Workers First"
"I'm not saying offshoring can be stopped, but it does not have to be like
this," he said.
On the Web:
Kirwin's site: http://www.itpaa.org
Emmons' site: http://www.hannatroup.com:81
1st July 18:03
American computer programmers face ultimate insult: Training overseas replacements
Then he should've done what I did once: Tell your boss since he knows so damn much he should train them himself and walk.
This is nothing new. It's been going on for years. FYI, since I was the only one who knew how to maintain the system I had created,
the subcontracting company bailed and left my boss holding the bag. Then the company canned him when it quit working and he refused
to hire me back as a short term consultant for $200 an hour.. Boo hoo. Couldn't have happened to a nicer clod.