US tech worker groups boycott IBM, Infosys, Manpower

Advocacy groups say the companies should look first for U.S. tech workers for U.S. IT jobs

Three U.S. tech worker groups have launched a labor boycott of IBM, Infosys and Manpower, saying the companies have engaged in a pattern that discourages U.S. workers from applying for U.S. IT jobs by tailoring employment ads toward overseas workers.

The companies should look first for U.S. workers to fill U.S. IT jobs, said representatives of Bright Future Jobs, the Programmers Guild and WashTech.

With the boycott, the three groups want to raise awareness of discriminatory hiring practices and put pressure on the three companies to consider U.S. IT workers for U.S. jobs, said Donna Conroy, director of Bright Future Jobs.

The main goals of the boycott are "attention getting" and putting pressure on the IT staffing firms to change their practices, Conroy said. With IT staffing agencies competing to fill U.S. positions, the companies contracting for their services may want to consider if the staffing firm "has a good reputation," she said.

The boycott should also raise concerns about staffing firms violating equal employment laws, said Les French, president of WashTech. "In addition to calling attention to an illegal practice, we want to show there are valid challenges to the 'labor shortage' of STEM workers," French said in an email.

An Infosys spokeswoman disputed the charges that it avoids recruiting U.S. IT workers.

"It is incorrect to allude that we exclude or discourage U.S. workers," she said by email. "Today, we are recruiting for over 440 active openings across 20 states in the U.S."

Many of the positions target people who have a U.S. master's degree in business administration for sales and management consultant jobs, she said. "The graduate hiring program is a key investment to strengthen our future leadership pool," she added. "Attracting the best and brightest talent is paramount to Infosys success."

The company's external job posts give "everyone an equal opportunity to apply," she added. The company supports several minority advocacy groups, she said.

Representatives from IBM and Manpower didn't respond to requests for comment on the boycott.

In some cases, a Manpower subsidiary has advertised for Indian IT workers to come to the U.S. for openings anticipated more than a year in advance, said Conroy, author of a white paper, released last week, that is focused on Manpower's IT recruitment efforts in India.

The advertisements in India are being placed even though "most Americans believe the nature of the tech industry is so fast-paced that staffing projections cannot be adequately foreseen," she said.

Meanwhile, Manpower is not advertising for U.S. IT positions on U.S. job portals, Conroy said. But if Manpower advertised in the U.S. using the same lead time it is using in India, it would give companies "plenty of time to seek Americans first."

In November 2013, Manpower subsidiary Experis IT India advertised in India for an OpenStack engineer for a U.S. position, Bright Future Jobs noted. "We are now hiring young, dynamic, skilled and experienced IT professionals from India to work with us in the U.S.," the ad said.

Other Experis IT India ads in late 2013 talked about the company filling out H-1B worker visa applications for job applicants, with one ad saying "all expenses related to your visa filing would be take care of" by Manpower.

The three tech workers groups also plan to launch an educational effort aimed at helping U.S. tech workers recognize discriminatory job ads and questions during job interviews, Conroy said. "When people are educated, there will likely be more lawsuits" related to discriminatory employment practices, she said.

Rajiv Dabhadkar, the founder of the National Organization for Software and Technology Professionals, a national tech advocacy organization in India, said he supports the boycott.

Indian employers show a "strong preference" for Indian IT workers, Dabhadkar said. He questioned why U.S. companies don't do the same thing.

The boycott "will protect the Indian foreign workers from the accusation of displacing Americans," he said. "Indians were not put on this earth to displace Americans, but Manpower's recruiting efforts show this is their plan."

Segregated recruiting opens the door to "unscrupulous agents" who make false promises to Indian IT workers, he added.

"The brokerage of intellectual capital drives down wages, and foreign workers are under paid," Dabhadkar said by email. "Multiple layers of broker agencies, that earn a per hour commission of their visa-sponsored employee creates a grey market."

Importing foreign workers to the U.S. as a commodity violates human rights, he added. "American employers gain competitive advantage and profitability by labor arbitrage, by paying low to their sponsored workers, and bidding high to their clients," Dabhadkar said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Tags business issuesLes FrenchManpowerDonna ConroyregulationIBMNational Organization for Software and Technology ProfessionalsWashTechBright Future JobspersonnelProgrammers GuildservicesinfosysRajiv Dabhadkarsoftwaregovernment

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