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US president Donald Trump said he removed board members at the government-owned utility company Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) because they hired foreign IT workers.
As the US election nears, with Trump trailing in the polls, he is likely to raise the rhetoric on US companies employing overseas workers. One of his promises was to put American workers first.
TVA, which provides electricity to millions of people, has been criticised by a not-for-profit group supporting tech workers, who also brought the issue to the attention of Trump.
He fired TVA board members and told the organisation’s board to hire a new CEO who “puts the interests of Americans first”, according to reports.
“Let this serve as a warning to any federally appointed board: If you betray American workers, you will hear two words: you’re fired,” Trump reportedly said.
Trump said the authority was outsourcing many of its in-house technology workers with suppliers that use high numbers of foreign workers.
Trump became aware of the issue after seeing a television ad produced by a non-profit known as US Tech Workers that wants to limit visas given to foreign technology workers. It criticised the TVA for furloughing its own workers and replacing them with contractors using foreign workers with H-1B visas. The TV ad was an attempt to persuade Trump to stop the TVA from outsourcing much of its IT division.
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According to The New York Times the TVA said it did not have any employees who worked overseas, but did not mention whether it used suppliers that did.
“All TVA employees are US-based citizens,” said Jim Hopson, a spokesman for the utility. “All jobs related to TVA’s information technology department must be performed in the U.S. by individuals who may legally work in this country.”
US businesses are the heaviest users of outsourcing services with huge numbers of workers from countries like India carrying out IT roles on US soil through H-1B visas
In 2017 as part of Trump’s election campaign promise to encourage US employers to hire more US citizens, he signed an executive order to force US government agencies to look at ways to reduce the number of immigrant workers in the country, including reducing the use of H-1B visas.