It seems the University of California’s way of showing it cares for its skilled workers is to fire them and hire cheaper, foreign contract labor. This is ironic to say the least.
Come February, UC San Francisco will be laying off nearly 50 of its information technology employees and outsourcing those jobs to an India-based IT consulting firm. The decision, announced last July, is allowed because of a loophole in the H1-B visa program, which allows US employers to temporarily hire skilled foreign labor.
This decision sets a troubling precedent for other campuses’ IT services, which are free to carry out similar overhauls in the name of saving money. It’s no surprise the University is trying to cut back as costs soar, but the decision to outsource IT work demonstrates the UC’s unwillingness not only to commit to labor rights, but also to its own values. As such, it’s imperative other campuses are withheld from taking similar action.
UCSF’s decision to exploit the H1-B visa loophole has received a great deal of criticism from state legislators and congressmen, but UC President Janet Napolitano has remained complacent about the matter. Yet, it was only 2014 when Napolitano remained firm in increasing employee minimum wages to $15 per hour, despite the costs. Now, the move to fire IT workers because it costs too much to pay them is not only terribly ironic, but also proves the UC is terribly flimsy when it comes to committing to its values.
This underhanded move demonstrates a frightening hypocrisy in the UC’s actions that is not limited to its treatment of IT workers. Over the past week, Teamsters 2010, the union for skilled workers, has protested stalled contract negotiations with the University, which it says stems from the UC’s refusal to increase their wages over the last four years.
Treating skilled workers in this manner throws dirt into the mouths of not only employees, but also state lawmakers and taxpayers, who provide funding to the university system for its educational merit and also for its role as one of California’s largest employers.
Certainly, cutting budget deficits is no laughing matter, and UCSF – and therefore the UC – are right in looking for ways to balance the books. However, backhandedly cutting personnel from critical IT infrastructure while priding itself for caring for its workers and stimulating the California economy isn’t just hypocritical, but disingenuous. And there are certainly more sincere ways of cutting costs from campus facilities, departments or even administrators to make ends meet.
As such, it’s essential the UC prevents other campuses from following in the footsteps of UCSF. The UC has an obligation to protect its employees and pay respect to the taxpayer dollars that support it. Furtively grabbing for cheap foreign labor in the name of saving money cannot be justified.