Wheres Your Contractors Work Force?

How do you know for sure whether your outsourcing provider is using domestic, H1-B or offshore IT workers?

How do you know for sure whether your outsourcing provider is using domestic, H1-B or offshore IT workers? Sometimes, its not easy to tell. Just ask members of the Charleston (South Carolina) County Council, whove been facing a constantly shifting storm of lobbying and controversy since questions arose recently about whether their decision to change outsourcing providers would result in the loss of local jobs.

It all started last month when Baton Rouge International Inc., a unit of CMC Ltd., of New Delhi, India, underbid incumbent provider Affiliated Computer Services Inc., based in Dallas, by about $5.5 million on a $17.2 million contract to run the countys administrative systems for five years. ACS, a government contractor with some 60 local jobs at stake, had held the contract for 19 years. The company retaliated by siccing lobbyists on council members. An April 4 article in the Charleston Post and Courier quoted Rod Shealy, a campaign consultant, as saying that he was asked to "craft a strategy to save those local jobs."

Council Chairman Leon Stavrinakis, who initially voted against the BRI contract, became concerned about BRIs hiring and wage practices. "I had heard that they would ultimately switch to an exclusive work force of imported, temporary labor that they could pay less money to and that that would be our entire work force for [the contract]," Stavrinakis said.

Playing the local-jobs card worked: The council fired BRI, of Baton Rouge, La., a few days after signing the contract and brought ACS back on board.

Local jobs saved? Wages protected? Offshore nabbing of IT jobs fended off? Well, not exactly. It turns out that one-third of ACS 35,000-member global work force is composed of offshore talent. Of its 60 staffers assigned to administer and maintain the countys computer systems, about six are H1-B visa holders. And as far as wages go, BRI assured Stavrinakis—with whom company officials met over the past month—that the company "didnt have any single employee who was paid as low as some of the workers under ACS tenure," Stavrinakis said.

According to the chairman, BRI has made a commitment to try to retain 25 percent of the contracts current employees—as long as they werent "imported from India," he said.

The upshot: BRI got the deal back.

The moral: In todays global economy, the term "local job" is up for creative interpretation.