Offshoring’s victims: Two stories

Michael Emmons lost his US$90,000 a year job as an applications developer and consultant with Siemens AG when the work was outsourced to companies overseas.

“It is an absolute sell-off of well-educated skilled Americans,” says Emmons, just one of many workers who have seen their jobs shipped to outsourcers in an effort to save money. “It is a race to the bottom line. There is no way Americans can compete with (offshore) labour.”

After six years with Siemens, Emmons thought his expertise in database development, ERP integration and middleware tools would have made his job secure. But that did not turn out to be the case.

“You could pay me zero dollars plus health benefits and it would still be cheaper to hire Indians in India or Chinese in China. We need fair trade that raises the standard of living in other countries, not trade agreements that lower the American standard of living,” he says.

When Siemens decided to embrace outsourcing in the summer of 2002, Emmons saw the writing on the wall and, after training his replacements — a process that left him bitter — he started looking for another job. Luckily for him he was able to find something through one of his consulting clients. Without that he claims he would be working at one of the big hardware store chains.

“Many, if not most of my ex-coworkers have left the industry or are still unemployed,” Emmons says. “One started cutting grass and working at the post office on the weekends.”

Emmons has a few tips for the federal government on how to fix the “problem” of outsourcing/offshoring:

– Rescind Fast Track authority.

– Focus the U.S.’ international trade policies and agreements on leveling the standard of living throughout the world.

– Reform the U.S. guest worker programs.

– Ensure that corporations pay their fair share of taxes and that companies that move their headquarters overseas to avoid paying taxes are banned from government contracts.

Walking away

After almost four years on the job as a senior business systems analyst at Toshiba America Information Systems, J.T. Walker left his US$85,000 job last month when the company was looking for volunteers to be laid off as it prepared to send work overseas.

The 39-year-old was EDI and EAI project leader at Toshiba, he says. The company went through a number of rounds of layoffs in three years in an effort to reduce costs, and when the CIO had an “all-hands meeting” to announce the plan to outsource jobs to India, Walker knew his time was running out.

“I understand that outsourcing is all the rage and fashion right now, and that many of the consulting firms are still recommending it. So to that end, I don’t entirely blame my employer,” he says.

But he would like the U.S. government to discontinue what he calls subsidizing the outsourcing of IT jobs to foreign countries. “If it’s a free market, then U.S. goods should not have taxes, tariffs, levies or quotas placed against them when entering those foreign countries,” Walker says. “It seems to be a one-way valve that only allows money to flow in their direction.”

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