Industrial relations trouble makes ousted IT blogger smile

This is part 7 of a series of blogs following the life of an IT professional that lost his job as a result of his employer offshoring IT. This week he reveals how news of industrial relations troubles at suppliers made him smile.

See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6

Situation: vacant

by IT Jobseeker

Last week’s story, about the Department of Work and Pensions and the BBC facing disruption because staff working for their outsourcing companies were to strike, made me smile.  When they first thought about outsourcing, did their respective bean counters consider the potential downside of depending on staff over whom they had no direct control? Probably not. The balance sheet is all.

Will the service level agreements the DWP and BBC signed with their outsourcers provide for compensation? Let’s hope so.

In a broader sense, the effects of relying on outsource staff go deep. Organisations who directly employ staff recognise who is an asset and who is a liability and can act accordingly. If a key member of staff threatens to leave, he or she can be offered inducements to stay, while a non-performer can be shown the door. In an outsourcing agreement, a company has little or no say over who does what.

From a staff point of view, working directly for a company provides a sense of belonging. This does not necessarily mean it’s a recipe for a contented workforce, but most people will see that they are part of the company’s success or failure.  Schemes run by some companies that provide share ownership, for example, help to promote this sense of involvement.   

For a new account, an outsourcing company will provide the keenest, brightest and best staff they have available, often moving staff in from other accounts. When they feel established, they will start to rotate staff, possibly moving in the not-so-bright. The client has no control.

It is perhaps for these reasons that Barclays have decided to bring their IT work back in house. A large British company has gone against the trend, hopefully more will follow.

Are company accountants finally noticing the (Indian) elephant in the room?

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I read this blog from part one through to seven with great interest, because it follows exactly my experience.

I was working for a large financial company as a contractor. I have never been out of work for more than a month in the last ten years, so I was quite gung-ho about my contract ending, and did not even mind training up the Mumbai support centre workers who were taking over my job. Although it was mildly irritating, a bit like aiming a gun at my feet.

I wish I could have been in on the presentation where the offshoring people sold it to the directors. I bet they placed a lot of importance on their highly skilled and competent staff.

Hmmm, did they mention that the same highly-skilled offshore staff would have to be trained up by the UK IT workers they were booting out?

Maybe they mumbled that bit as they were filing out for tea, or buried it in the fine print on page 57 of the contract, in amongst the marketing hype.

In any event I found it took much, much longer than I expected to find the next IT job. About eight months. Partially this was because I had mainly mainframe skills, and there are fewer mainframe positions around. It seems they have mostly been outsourced.

I finally bit the bullet and took a permanent position for about a third of my contracting rate. By the way, here's a top tip for anyone in that position: do not tell anyone what your last contracting rate was. Once I had passed the interviews and made the mistake of filling out an HR form that wanted my previous salary. Big mistake. Once they saw that, they said thank you but cheers. I suspect because they thought I would probably leave as soon as the market picks up again.

As it happens, I love my new job and have no plans to run off. The people are a pleasure to work with. I don't have to wear a tie, it's a reasonable commute and best of all they don't expect massively long hours and I get paid holidays as a "permie", yippee. I know it's a cliche, but money really isn't everything.

That the outsourcing continues is shocking, disgusting, disastrous. Can't the fools see, every job they delete here in the UK, doesn't snatch away only one salary, but also a family who would be buying groceries in the UK, paying tax in the UK, going shopping and buying fuel and generally being part of the economy here in the UK!

For offshore workers, picture a hosepipe of money going from here, to there, offshore. None of it comes back. No tax, no economy, nothing.

Along with the money being hosed out of our economy, there are also the skills, quietly ebbing away.

What really knocked my socks off was one of your blogger's comments about an American woman's testimony to the US senate about this very issue.

What was fantastic was that they not only had this problem in America, but they listened to their IT workers and fixed it. In 2004. This is what she said:

We need someone like that, here in the UK. Any government who fixes this problem (willy nilly IT outsourcing) will not only get my vote, but also my left kidney, my first-born child, and my undying devotion.

We need a hero now, more than ever.

The US at least recognises there were and still are issues. The US equivalent of the UKBA has been much more active enforcing rules recently. Try googling for the Neufeld memo to see the increasingly stricter attitudes to bringing in workers who will be sent to client sites.

Maybe IT Jobseeker can take a heroic step and report his experiences to the UKBA. They have included making UK employees redundant and bringing in tier 2 visa workers as a form of displacement that is against the rules.

Yeah you can waste your time trying to get an MP to listen. Trouble is, the Indian companies profiting from this situation are embedded with lobbying companies that already employ MPs in side jobs, and have invested a great deal of money in ensuring the co-operation of government. You only have to look at the recent "tightening up" of the points-based skilled workers immigration scheme. Two loopholes were tightened up - not closed - and a third massive loophole was created that should ensure the situation continues for many years to come.