Northeast Utilities brings on H-1B workers

Connecticut state lawmakers held a press conference Thursday demanding answers from Northeast Utilities about its unofficial plans to ship IT jobs to India.  This press conference was mostly wind and fury. The state may have lost its leverage over NU when it put its stamp on a merger last year.

At this press conference, State Rep. Lonnie Reed, who chairs the state’s Energy Committee, said that during the merger talks with Boston-based NStar, NU “promised not to do any layoffs, but to do it through attrition, and to let us know in advance,” Reed said, according to a report in the New Haven Register. “There is a process in place and they have not adhered to it. That just undermines their credibility,” she said, according to the newspaper.

This helps to explain NU’s heads-up to employees about its offshore plans. (See: Utility sets IT department on path to self-destruction.) NU management knows this is the kind of news that will prompt IT employees to rush to the exits. Accelerating attrition, and dismantling the IT workforce through fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), is probably easier than bringing lawmakers news of a layoff.   

will_code_for_food_crop.jpg

But what is actually going on inside of NU IT?

So far this year, Infosys, the Bangalore, India-based IT services giant, has filed about 30 Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) with the U.S. Dept. of Labor, according to the records kept by MyVisaJobs.com. LCAs are filed with the Labor Dept. for wage determinations. H-1B visa holders work in the U.S. on temporary visas and have to be paid the prevailing wage.

The LCA requires the address of the worksite. The applications list 107 Selden St., Berlin, which is a NU facility, so the link seems clear. Many of the jobs are for computer systems analysts and are typically paying anywhere from around the upper $60,000 through low $80,000 range. 

The filing of an LCA doesn’t mean a visa worker has been assigned to the worksite. They can be filed in advance of actual use. But Infosys has filed visas for 107 Selden St., in 2012 and in 2011. This likely indicates that Infosys has a long-standing relationship with NU, and its workers are familiar with its systems and may now be ready to execute on a deeper outsourcing commitment.

For those who may not understand how this works, there’s something I want to note. Large U.S. enterprise vendors, via an outsourcing contract, can and do ship jobs overseas as easily as an Indian-based one. There are a lot of ways and a lot of vendors in the U.S. and overseas that NU can use to dismantle its in-house IT department.  

The broader issue, for Connecticut lawmakers and everyone else, isn’t just about firing NU workers and expanding unemployment. It’s about creating jobs as well. If NU is already turning to a temporary, visa holding workforce in its IT department, something the LCAs suggest is happening, then NU’s contribution to the employment hurt in Connecticut has already started.

I hope the merger was worth it.

Note: About the photo, “Will Code for Food.” I took that photograph about 10 years ago at a protest. (It's a tight crop of the sign alone, hence the image quality) The sign was made by a Connecticut IT worker who was protesting the offshoring of jobs. This offshoring story, especially in Connecticut’s manufacturing and financial services industries, has a very long history. What has changed is that the wave of offshoring has reached an employer, NU, long considered among its most stable.

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