It may be little consolation to U.S. workers who have been forced to train the H-1B visa holders who replace them, but they might be interested to learn that the very same thing is happening to workers in Australia.
According to Australian press reports, as of January at least 188 IT employees of Westpac Banking Corp., one of Australia's oldest and largest banks, had been laid off as part of a large-scale restructuring that began in November. The bank confirmed earlier today that it was preparing to lay off another 119 IT workers and transition their roles overseas. What's most troubling about all of this is that like so many of their counterparts in the United States, these Australian workers are being forced to train their replacements - employees of Indian outsourcing companies, including Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services (TSC) - before they leave. These Indian workers are in Australia on 457 visas, a rough equivalent of the U.S. H-1B. According to an article in The Courier-Mail in Brisbane, as many as 2,000 Westpac employees could lose their jobs. Here's an excerpt:
Westpac staffer of 15 years, Russell Siachico, said of one trainee: "She has been shadowing me, sitting next to me and I have to teach her how to do my day-to-day job. Basically sitting next to me like a sponge, sucking in as much information as possible. It's devastating."
After the so-called "knowledge transfer," the overseas workers will return to India to teach their colleagues, who are paid far less than Westpac's Australian employees.
The nation's big four banks, which recorded profits of $24 billion last financial year, have slashed more than 3,300 jobs over the past 12 months. One Westpac staffer said the new recruits "don't have any experience in testing systems and most of them have never worked in a bank.'' Another worker said: "It is extremely demoralising to train people who are highly incompetent to take your own role. We get constant stupid questions every single day."
It appears that Westpac is unapologetic about forcing the employees to train their replacements. The employees have been informed that they are expected to "act professionally" throughout the process:
In a letter obtained by The Sunday Mail, Westpac head of employee relations Michael Johnston admitted sending Australian jobs overseas was "an important element of the Westpac Group's strategy'' and had been for "some time."
"Our expectation is that employees act professionally in providing reasonable assistance with review and transition activities,'' he said. "We are ensuring that employee contact in any review is minimised and is undertaken as unobtrusively as possible."
The article pointed out that the Australian government has warned that Westpac could be in violation of immigration regulations, and that it's required to pay the Indian workers the same salaries as Australians. It concluded with a statement from Australia's Finance Sector Union:
FSU acting secretary Veronica Black attacked Westpac for asking staff to "effectively facilitate the destruction of their own jobs."
"I am surprised Westpac might think that it is acceptable to treat its loyal employees in this way as it goes about deciding whether to destroy their jobs in the bank's rush to reduce costs,'' she said.