Monday, February 18

New IT contract at UCSF to lay off current workers

News, UC

Legislators, union members and information technology workers have urged University of California President Janet Napolitano to stop the outsourcing of IT jobs at UC San Francisco.  (Mackenzie Possee/Assistant Photo editor)

Legislators, union members and information technology workers have urged University of California President Janet Napolitano to stop the outsourcing of IT jobs at UC San Francisco. (Mackenzie Possee/Assistant Photo editor)

Some information technology workers at the University of California are worried about losing their jobs, following the University of California’s contract with an Indian IT firm.

The systemwide $50 million contract is with HCL, an India-based IT company. The contract is only being implemented at UC San Francisco, which laid off 79 IT workers and eliminated 18 positions. The layoffs will be effective Feb. 28, 2017.

UC San Francisco said in a statement this outsourcing would save about $30 million over the next five years.

About 17 percent of UC San Francisco IT workers will lose their jobs. According to the university, HCL employees will provide data center monitoring and operations, server, storage and other services.

The UC Office of the President referred questions from the Daily Bruin about the contract to UC San Francisco, which released a statement.

Max Belasco, UCLA’s IT Student Services manager, said he worried the contract could be implemented at any campus because it applies to the whole UC system.

“Other UCs could be taking a look at this model and implement it, even here at UCLA,” Belasco said. “This is disconcerting to me and other members of my board.”


University Professional & Technical Employees – Community Workers of America Local 9119, or UPTE, the union representing UC health care, research and technical employees, advocated against the contract by petitioning and contacting lawmakers after UC San Francisco announced layoffs.

Mike Fehr, a computer resource specialist at the UCLA Biomedical Library and president of UCLA’s chapter of UPTE, said he feared administrators will not give IT workers much notice regarding the cuts.

“If other campuses use this same model, people wouldn’t know anything until they heard about layoff notices,” Fehr said.

The union representatives also said they think the contracts pose a conflict of interest between the UC and HCL. Both Pradeep Khosla, chancellor of UC San Diego, and Sosale Shankar Sastry, dean of engineering at UC Berkeley, sit on boards of HCL subsidiaries.

UC Berkeley and UC San Diego officials said Sastry and Khosla did not participate in contract negotiations with UCSF.

Union officials were also concerned about the program’s use of the H-1B visas, nonimmigrant visas that allow U.S. employers to temporarily fill positions with foreign workers to compensate for a lack of skilled domestic workers.

“The university is creating artificial shortage by laying people off,” Fehr said. “This is not what the H-1B visa program was for.”

UCSF said in a statement it had not violated university policy or laws.

“UCSF has no plans to use the H-1B visa program to bring in foreign IT professionals to work as UCSF employees,” UC San Francisco said.

[Throwback: UCLA to outsource email accounts to Gmail]

Some IT professionals said they think outsourcing could lower the quality of the work because laid-off employees will have limited time to train their off-site replacements before they are officially terminated. Keith Pavlik, a staff member at UC San Francisco who works with UPTE, said the employees must train their replacements to receive severance packages.

“From my perspective as an IT professional, I think you always have the best quality of service from people who have an inside knowledge of the system,” said Belasco. “The type of professional expertise needed cannot be transferred from a fired worker to an outside worker within a matter of months without a decrease in quality.”

Some of California’s congressional representatives spoke against the contract.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier and Rep. Barbara Lee wrote letters to UC President Janet Napolitano asking her to reconsider the proposed contract. The representatives cited the UC’s potential misuse of H1-B visas to bring in foreign workers.

UCOP also declined to comment about the lawmakers’ letters.

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Opinion columnist

Busco is an Opinion columnist and a staff representative on the Daily Bruin Editorial Board.

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  • noh1bvisas

    This blatant abuse of the h-1b visa has been going on for years. It was never intended to be a cheap labor program. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have been replaced by h-1b guest workers. It’s time for it to stop.

  • vbierschwale

    There is one thing about this that is NOT being discussed that needs to be discussed.

    Our children and even our parents go to school, as do our veterans to gain the education necessary to climb the ladder of opportunity higher than the life that they were born into.

    They spend their time and their money to acquire an education that will help them to build a better life for themselves.

    Some of the best jobs that America has to offer are our STEM jobs.

    This action effectively eliminates them from pursuing those jobs no matter how qualified they are.

    How exactly is this furthering the American Dream where all men and women are created equal regardless of their circumstances of birth?.

    What I find especially troubling is all American Citizens are slowly but surely being eliminated from competing for any STEM jobs that have been outsourced to companies that refuse to hire Americans in America.

    Where is the media and government outrage?

  • Perturbed Pundit

    The H-1B visa SHOULD bring in top talent to the US. Unfortunately, that’s not what it’s currently being used for. The GAO put out a report on the H-1B visa that discusses at some length the fact that the vast majority of H-1B workers are hired into entry-level positions. In fact, most are at “Level I”, which is officially defined by the Dept. of Labor as those who have a “basic understanding of duties and perform routine tasks requiring limited judgment”. Moreover, the GAO found that a mere 6% of H-1B workers are at “Level IV”, which is officially defined by the US Dept. of Labor as those who are “fully competent” (1). This belies the industry lobbyists’ claims that H-1B workers are hired because they are experts that can’t be found among the U.S. workforce.

    So this means one of two things: either companies are looking for entry-level workers (in which case, their rhetoric about needing PhDs and “the best and brightest” is meaningless), or they’re looking for more experienced workers but only paying them at the Level I, entry-level pay scale. In my opinion, companies are using the H-1B visa to engage in legalized age discrimination, as the vast majority of H-1B workers are under the age of 35 (2), especially those at the Level I and Level II categories.

    Any way you slice it, it amounts to H-1B visa abuse, all facilitated and with the blessings of the US government.

    The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has never shown a sharp upward trend of Computer Science graduate starting salaries, which would indicate a labor shortage (remember – the vast majority of H-1B visas are granted for computer-related positions). In fact, according to their current survey for Fall 2015, starting salaries for CS grads went down by 4% from the prior year. This is particularly interesting in that salaries overall rose 5.2% (3). This is not indicative of a domestic labor shortage.

    The visa laws need an overhaul so that the visa is only used for it’s stated purpose – to attract TOP talent.


    (1) GAO-11-26: H-1B VISA PROGRAM – Reforms Are Needed to Minimize the Risks and Costs of Current Program

    (2) Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report to Congress October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014

    (3) NACE Fall 2015 Salary Survey, NACE Salary Survey – September 2014 Executive Summary