BofA: Train your replacement, or else
BofA: Train your replacement, or else
Date: Saturday, June 10, 2006 12:29 PM
<<<<< JOB DESTRUCTION NEWSLETTER No. 1497 -- 06/10/2006 >>>>>
The Bank of America is replacing their American workers with Indians, but
before they are given a pink slip they are required to train their foreign
replacements. Refusal to cooperate will result in the loss of severance
Corporations who are engaging in this practice usually call it by
politically correct euphemisms such as "knowledge transfer" or "knowledge
acquisition" but I prefer to call it by a more accurate name - BLACKMAIL.
The BofA is using Tata Consulting (TCS) to import the Indian replacements.
No mention was made in the article below what visa is being used to import
the Indians but it's probably a combination of H-1B and L-1s. Neither visa
requires that employers give hiring priority to U.S. citizens and legal
residents so BofA can get away with this while avoiding legal problems.
What is happening at BofA is one of those sorry spectacles that are playing
out all across the country.
Forcing employees to train their foreign replacements is nothing new at
BofA, as you can see by looking at some of the old news clips:
BofA Tech Workers Fear Jobs
Heading Off to India, Contra Costa Times, April 27, 1997:
Bank of America's technology center is in the early stages
of an unsettling cost-cutting experiment. The San
Francisco-based bank is asking its computer engineers in
Concord to undermine their own job security by helping to
train potential replacment workers imported from
India before shipping an untold number of positions overseas...
The bank also maintains none of its Concord emloyees will be
dropped from the payroll if the pilot program with the India
workers proves to be a success.
You're Fired, Now Go Train Your Replacement, San Francisco Business Times,
November 22, 2002:
Spreading some pre-holiday cheer, Bank of America this week
announced that it is cutting 900 tech positions---with the
twist that some layoff victims have to help train replacements
if they want to get severance pay...
The most tragic case was that of Kevin Flanagan.
Job losses sap morale of workers, May. 13, 2003, CONTRA COSTA TIMES
One month ago, Kevin Flanagan took his life in the parking
lot of Bank of America's Concord Technology Center, on the
afternoon after he was told he had lost his job.
Gagnon confirmed this, saying that in some cases it made
sense to have workers train their overseas successors before
they are let go.
"The knowledge transfer is essential to continue to provide
our customers with the best possible services and
solutions," Gagnon said.
I covered the Flanagan case in detail - go there to read more:
2003 09-18 Protests against Outsourcing
2003 06-03 US techie loses his job to India
2003 05-26 BofA Programmer Commits Suicide - Parts 2-4
2003 05-13 BofA Programmer Commits Suicide
2003 05-13 Regarding the Suicide Story
We have seen this form of corporate blackmail all too often. Siemens in
Orlando Florida was probably the most publicized case of forced replacement
and training. Mike Emmons broke the Siemens case on WKMG TV, but in the end
Siemens won because they weren't doing anything illegal. To understand the
Siemens saga, watch the "Stolen Jobs" video near the bottom of this page:
One of the most important things to notice in the "Stolen Jobs" story is
that Siemens admitted to WKMG that they were forcing their American
employees to train their foreign replacements, and even Florida's
Congressman Rep. Mica knew about it - BUT NOTHING EVER HAPPENED TO SIEMENS.
Nothing will happen to BofA either because replacing American workers with
H-1B/L-1 visa holders may be against the spirit of the law, but it's not
against the letter of the law. In the case of L-1 visas, which are the most
often used choice when employers are doing this forced training and
replacements, the spirit of the law isn't even on our side. To read more
about this story, search the newsletter archive for the keywords "Mike
Emmons". and/or "Siemens"
The most obvious question you are likely to ask is what can be done to stop
this humiliating form of corporate terrorism against America? I can only
think of three ways to stop it, and only one way that will work:
1 - Embarrass the company by publicizing what they are doing. Unfortunately
this tactic has proven to be a total failure in the past. If the 2003
suicide of Kevin Flanagan in the BofA parking lot wasn't enough to
embarrass BofA it's doubtful anything else will.
2 - File class action lawsuits. This hasn't proven effective because of the
immense cost. Understandably lawyers aren't willing to take these high-risk
cases on a contingency basis. Lawyers consider H-1B/L-1 lawsuits as high
risk because for the most part employers aren't breaking the law and there
are so many loopholes they can use to escape court decisions. Only one
class action lawsuit was actually brought to trial but unfortunately Tata
and HP won. To read more, go here:
3 - Change the laws. If the majority of U.S. voters decide that they don't
want to be replaced with H-1B and L-1 visa holders, or any other type of
foreigner on a work visa, then they will have to elect politicians that
will change the laws. Ultimately this is the only method that will work.
The newsletter archive contains stories about many other companies who have
forced their U.S. employees to train their replacements. This list is by no
means complete, it's only a partial list of the stories this newsletter has
covered. As you can see, there is nothing unique about BofA.
GE Real Estate
First Data Corporation
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co
Computer Science Corp.
BofA: Train your replacement, or no severance pay for you
- David Lazarus
Friday, June 9, 2006
Bank of America has been steadily moving thousands of tech jobs to India.
The latest to go are about 100 positions that handle BofA's internal tech
While many of the bank's Bay Area techies accept the inevitability of their
jobs heading abroad, what rankles them is the fact that, in many cases,
they're being told they have to first train the Indians who are getting
"If people want their severance packages, they have to train their
replacements," a senior engineer at one of BofA's Bay Area facilities told
me. "There's nothing in writing that says this -- the bank's been careful
about that. But it's made clear at meetings what we're supposed to do."
Shirley Norton, a BofA spokeswoman, confirmed that while workers aren't
being explicitly told they have to train their replacements or risk losing
severance pay, they are being instructed that severance pay is contingent
on satisfactorily completing their jobs.
Completing their jobs, in turn, can include training replacements from
India, she said.
"I know that's parsing things a bit," Norton acknowledged. "What we ask
associates to do as part of getting severance is that they stay on the job
until the job is transitioned.
"It's a common practice when your job is being transferred from one person
to another that you train the new person," she added. "We expect our people
to stay until their jobs are consolidated."
Making workers train someone from India to take their jobs away isn't
unique to BofA. Other U.S. companies reportedly have done the same in
But BofA stands out because it acknowledged earlier this year that it
understands how much the practice offends its U.S. employees.
Barbara Desoer, BofA's chief technology exec, told BusinessWeek magazine in
January that she was aware how much grumbling it caused when workers at the
bank's Concord technology center were told they'd have to bring their
Indian replacements up to speed before being shown the door.
"It caused us to make a greater commitment to our associates," she said.
"It caused us to make a larger commitment to explaining the context of
changes happening in the marketplace in advance of (changes) happening."
But it apparently didn't cause BofA to stop doing it.
"We've seen a bunch of Indians come through (the Bay Area)," the senior
engineer said. He asked that his name be withheld because he's seeking
another position within the bank.
"They're very open about it," he said. "They're here to learn our jobs and
then leave. Some go back to India, and some settle in Charlotte, where the
Why would BofA hire Indians to work in the United States?
"Because they don't actually work for Bank of America," the engineer
replied. "They work for Infosys Technologies and Tata Consultancy Services,
which are both in India. They do the work at half the cost of what a U.S.
worker gets paid."
BofA's Norton was unable to comment on the bank's contracts with Indian
outsourcing firms. But she acknowledged that BofA has many Indian employees
and contractors working in the United States.
"There are a lot, in a number of positions," Norton said. "We have been
pleased with the quality of the results, the cost savings and the fact that
it allows us to have a 24-hour clock."
She said BofA estimates that outsourcing has allowed the bank to save about
$100 million over the past five years.
In 2004, BofA opened a subsidiary in India to process transactions and
handle other operations. It now employs about 2,000 workers at three
The bank has also outsourced numerous jobs to Indian companies like Infosys
and Tata. "It's a good business practice if you have the right processes in
place," Norton said.
Representatives of Infosys and Tata declined to comment.
BofA's increasing reliance on Indian workers was made evident in a
40-minute presentation given last year to some of the bank's U.S. tech
employees. BofA distributed DVDs of the presentation to managers
companywide in April as part of a new program called Culture Connections.
One of the DVDs made its way into my hands this week, along with supporting
materials provided to managers.
The DVD shows a roomful of about a dozen bank employees being told by a
blond-haired American manager (who is wearing purple, Indian-looking
clothes) that the presentation will assist them in "understanding the
Indian culture and who the Indian is."
This is important, the manager continues, because of "the dependency we
have on our teammates who are either here in the U.S. who come from India,
or who we interact with on a daily basis who reside in India."
She then introduces the presenter, Shiva Subramaniam, who has traveled from
India to give an overview of India's culture, including how the country has
"specific gods for specific concepts," and how "it's almost impossible to
look at an Indian and not associate him with the game of cricket."
He shows a series of slides during the presentation. Clearly visible at the
bottom of the screen are the words "Tata Consultancy Services."
Working with Indians
BofA employees were summoned to "team huddles" last month to learn more
about working with Indians. The meeting leader's guide for the
get-togethers said the goal is "to build a diverse and inclusive workplace
and to prepare associates to meet the challenge of working globally."
A "manager message map" for the presentation on India says that "all
associates will be expected to participate in this learning experience" by
the end of June.
Norton confirmed that nearly all of BofA's 200,000 workers are expected to
sit through the presentation.
"We're dealing with a global customer base and a global employee base," she
said. "So we've started a program for people to understand international
Exporting more work
The senior engineer said many bank workers suspect that the Culture
Connections program is intended primarily to smooth the way toward
exporting more work to India.
It's also possible that BofA is responding to a 2003 incident in which one
of the bank's software programmers in Concord killed himself after his job
was outsourced to India.
Meanwhile, there's growing buzz in banking circles that a new focus on
attracting Latino customers in the United States will lead to an increased
number of call centers being outsourced to Latin America.
BofA's Norton said the India presentation was only the first in a series of
a Culture Connections programs. Next up, she said: Latin America.
David Lazarus' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Send tips or
feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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