Northeast Utilities, via its offshore contractors, brought in H-1B visa holders to replace its U.S. workers as a prelude to moving work offshore. This kind of thing used to make people angry, but it’s so routine today that few even think to question it.
Thomas May, the CEO of Northeast Utilities in Connecticut, gave an interview to the local paper, The Hartford Courant, where he tried to explain what he was doing. The interview never got to the heart of the matter: Should a public utility offshore IT jobs?
Does a regulated business with a guaranteed market have any obligation at all to try to preserve jobs in the U.S.? Does it have any obligation to try to create as many home-grown STEM jobs as possible?
When Northeast Utilities merged with Massachusetts utility NStar in 2012, the two companies began standardizing and combining IT platforms. That’s to be expected. But this consolidation went further.
The utility hired Infosys and Tata Consultancy, which brought in H-1B visa workers to take over the IT jobs. Northeast Utilities and NStar aren’t simply standardizing and consolidating IT platforms, they're reducing cost by moving work to low-wage countries.
In the Courant interview, May didn’t talk about the decision to replace U.S. workers with foreign workers, or the layoff of about 200 IT workers. He talked about a need for common platforms and, as the story points out, used references and analogies to make his point.
"I want all my McDonald's to serve burgers and fries. I don't want some serving pizzas and some serving subs and calzones," said May.
During a time of layoffs, a hamburger flipping reference probably wasn’t May’s finest analogy, but you get the point.
Instead of shipping jobs offshore, Northeast and NStar could have challenged its internal IT resources to do the job. May could have asked IT leaders to step up to the challenge.
But even as it lays off its technology workers, Northeast Utilities is trying to create the illusion that it cares about a STEM workforce.
Northeast Utilities is among the companies that touts its commitment to STEM training on the STEMconnector, a database and information source on STEM opportunities. On this site, the utility lists the internship program, workforce development and contributions to a local science center.
What’s ironic, is that it’s entirely possible that the utility is now creating more technical jobs in India than it is in Connecticut.