IT workers scoff at vendor CEOs’ lobbying efforts

A group of influential high-tech CEOs released a report in early January that calls on Congress and the Bush administration to avoid protectionist trade measures that could hurt the industry’s global competitiveness and lead to a further loss of U.S. jobs.

But IT professionals in the U.S. have a different message for Congress and the industry’s leading CEOs: Stop sending our jobs overseas.

“What goes around comes around,” said Richard Gump, an independent programmer who works on a contract basis in the insurance and health care industries. “Now that they feel the pain, they want the government to help them. Where were they when they were laying employees off and sending their jobs overseas?”

The executives from the Computer Systems Policy Project (CSPP), which includes Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell and Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO and chairman Carly Fiorina, are urging the government to support three major policy recommendations that they say are critical to bolstering the U.S. IT industry’s global competitiveness.

Offshoring essential

The CEOs want the government to expand support for research and development, maintain a business climate that rewards risk and entrepreneurship, and improve education and training for students and displaced IT workers. But the report’s implicit defense of offshore outsourcing, which it characterizes as essential to doing business globally, is being interpreted by some as a slap in the face to a devalued U.S. IT workforce.

Corey Goode lost his job as a network administrator at Dallas-based hotel and resort operator Wyndham International Inc. shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. After a year of unemployment, he landed a job at Microsoft Corp., only to lose it when his work was outsourced to India.

“We (displaced workers) are not a xenophobic group of people. We have no problem with other countries trying to take advantage of a situation that will raise their standard of living,” said Goode. But “we are now training our foreign replacements as well as watching hundreds of thousands of jobs leave the country. The jobs are leaving not because of the local skill level but because of the wages (companies) have to pay and the taxes they can avoid paying by using foreign workers.”

“The IT industry is not asking for a handout,” said Jennifer Greeson, a spokeswoman for Intel Corp., whose CEO, Craig Barrett, chairs the CSPP. “We are calling for a long-term, strategic plan that invests in the future of this nation and its workforce.”

Greg Eden, a spokesman for CSPP member EMC Corp., defended his company’s outsourcing policies, saying that 65 per cent of EMC’s employees are based in the U.S. and that recent layoffs affected U.S. and foreign operations equally.

CSPP executive director Bruce Mehlman said the report and policy recommendations aren’t symptoms of IT companies struggling to make ends meet. “These companies are not feeling the pain. They are doing very well despite the highly competitive global environment,” said Mehlman.

“The tech industry has grown jobs and will continue growing jobs here at home,” he said. But “we must never compete in the battle to see who can pay their workers the least.” And that will require “enlightened policies” that support innovation, entrepreneurship and education, he said.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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