back to article Google contractor HCL America accused of retaliating against unionized techies by shifting US jobs to Poland

The US National Labor Relations Board has bundled a series of complaints alleging labor law violations against IT services firm HCL America (HCL Technologies), which supplies contract workers like data analysts to a Google office in Pittsburgh, into a case to be heard in February. The NLRB complaint [PDF] is a consolidation of …

  1. C. P. Cosgrove
    WTF?

    Uh ?

    I have been a trade unionist since I was 20 and spent five years as a shop steward. All I can say is 'More power to your elbows'.

    Many of the HRT horror stories we read about in El Reg would be mitigated by union membership.

    Chris Cosgrove

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Uh ?

      Having been in the past, a member of NATSOPA and then UNISON, I am generally in favour of the protections, support and added strength that unions afford workers. Providing they are subject to reasonable regulations just as employers should be.

      More than one of the stewards at Natsopa (print union in the '70s) would have made Stalin look like a moderate but in general, union membership was a good thing and helped to keep a lot of employers from taking liberties with their employees.

      1. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: Uh ?

        "More than one of the stewards at Natsopa (print union in the '70s) would have made Stalin look like a moderate but in general, union membership was a good thing"

        Indeed, it's the balance that is the tricky bit. Workers need to be able to group together and work collectively, since otherwise companies have far too much power compared to each individual. But once they get above a certain size, you end up with career unionists whose only job is running the union, and it all too often ends up as an organisation working solely for its own benefit rather than that of the members (charities often have the same problem, as does government for that matter). Once that happens, people become disillusioned with unions and stop joining, since what's the point when the only people benefiting are the ones running it? And of course, once unions start losing their power, companies jump on the opportunity to start abusing their employees again, making people remember why they wanted unions in the first place and driving membership back up again. And so the cycle continues...

        Or to put it more concisely, four legs good, two legs better.

    2. Imhotep Silver badge

      Re: Uh ?

      For a different perspective from the US:

      I've been a member of two unions in the US - Teamsters and CWA. I was glad to leave both jobs, just a poisonous environment.

      Many rely on the union pensions for their retirements, and those funds were misappropriated by the Teamsters (infiltrated by the Mafia) and most recently by the UAW, with arrests this year.

      The Mafia connection has been an ongoing problem with a number of union locals across the country.

      A number of union members also object to union funds going to political causes and campaign contributions. That became an issue in the recent GM strike as the lack of strike funds pressured members to go back to work after a short while with demands unmet.

      I would expect union membership to continue to decline unless the unions are cleaned up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Uh ?

        I assume the down voter above have zero personal experience of the US and its rather "interesting" union history. We are not talking Betriebsrat here.

        Unions have very little presence in the private sector in the US. (just like in France for example). The only private sector areas with heavy union presence are old time dying or dead industries like US Big Three car manufactures, steel etc. Pretty much every union in these industries has had senior members / presidents prosecuted and sent to jail for corruption / racketeering and murder. Not because they were "framed" by "Big Business", but because they actually do all these things. The only large European trade union that even starts to come close to the unsavoriness of big US unions is probably the CGT in France. Nothing in the history of the Labour Movement of the UK would even get to the start line in that competition. For corruption and criminal behavior.

        The vast majority of union members in the US work in the public sector. At the local, state and federal levels. Where they uphold levels of complete bloodymindness and contempt for the public and taxpayers that will be very familiar to those old enough to remember public sector unions in the UK back in the 1960's and 1970's

        And as for the Teamsters. If you happen to be working in a Teamster controlled public building (exhibition hall etc) then its best to arrive with a big roll of $100 bills and when the union rep does his rounds (as they always do when you first arrive) a friendly handshake with the large roll of bills in you hand will make your life much easier while you are in the building. If you are not friendly towards the Teamsters union rep its amazing just how many things can go wrong during the time you are in the building..

        In most Northern European countries unions are mostly a good thing. In most Southern European countries not so much. In the US most unions are just to a lesser or greater degree a protection racket of some form or other. With the upper leadership skimming off large amounts of money for their own use. And killing people who get in the way.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Uh ?

          Who knew there were so many ALF-CIO members reading the "Reg. At least five it seems. Or was it the accurate description of the CGT that did it. Martinez has had some "associates" in the past that would have made Jimmy Hoffa think twice.

          Other little know fact about the Teamsters, at least in the UK. The union has been a major fundraiser in the US for the IRA over the decades. Thats where the IRA got most of it "legit" money. "Fundraising" in the US. So those car/truck bombs like Baltic Exchange, Bishopsgate, Manchester etc back in the 1990's for example came curtsey (at least partly) of the US labour unions and their like.

          As I said before, US labour unions are a very different beast from say UNISON or Unite. Although I could image ALSEF in one of their bolshier moments going completely off the rails and trying some direct action.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            I see what you did there

            Although I could image ALSEF in one of their bolshier moments going completely off the rails

            ASLEF : rails !

            Mind you, the NUR is just as bad these days and a throwback to the Unions of the Red Robbo era.

            {former NUR member at Derby back in the 1970's}

            1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

              Re: {former NUR member at Derby back in the 1970's}

              Same here (London).

              Managed to escape to the TSSA despite the Bridlington agreement on grounds that I was going "white collar".

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I see what you did there

              Sorry about the ASLEF typo.. Must have been the result of one too many British Rail / Tubes strikes way back when..

              Nothing brings back all those happy memories of the Winter of Discontent / Decade of Discontent faster than the last few years of hearing ASLEF union reps explaining why we needed yet another Tube strike.

              Are they trying to keep up with the CGT and their annual railway strike(s) on the SNCF in France? One memorable interview during their annual strike some years ago the CGT rep when asked why they had a strike even though the government had pretty much caved on all their demands - just one of those very Gallic shrugs and a simple - "just to remind the government we can strike"...

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Uh ?

        "infiltrated by the Mafia"

        There's an obvious solution there and it isn't unionbusting

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Uh ?

      Interestingly, one of our sites unioned up last year, because they wanted a pay rise and were afraid to talk to management about it.

      One of the directors expressed her exasperation. "If only they had spoken to us, it would have saved time and money and we would have had more money left in the pot for pay rises!"

      (Setting up the office and equipment for the union representatives, legal fees, "free" time for the representatives, meaning an extra worker needed to take up the slack etc. meant the amount left to deal with payrises was less.)

      The company made no problems with the employees wanting to unionise, but they did ask whether it was necessary. When the employees voted yes, it was necessary, they got out the way and let them get on with it, then negotiated with them.

      If you have a good employer, a union isn't necessary, if you have a bad employer, it can be useful or cause even more problems and it would probably better to find a job elsewhere.

      I was only once unionised and I was made redundant after 18 months and the union just sat by and watched as 2/3 the staff were let go, without actually lifting a finger.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    United, together

    Compare the pair:

    Management versus union.

    Both are out for themselves.

    One enriches a small number of people, the other enriches a larger number of people.

    Eat the rich!

    1. maffski

      Re: United, together

      But the union has management as well. Who are, by your own reasoning, in it for themselves.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who are, by your own reasoning, in it for themselves.

        No, that's your reasoning. In my reasoning they're in it for their colleagues.

        Yes, sometimes greedy people rise to the top of big organisations. That doesn't mean that a Union has the same objectives as a Business, just that they suffer from the same issue with greedy leaders.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Who are, by your own reasoning, in it for themselves.

          Unions only get "bolshie" when faced with years of shitty management and a need to have militants to get things done

          The hard part is getting rid of those miltants later

          IE: a "rotten uinion" is a direct result of "rotten employers", not the other way around.

          1. Robert Grant Silver badge

            Re: Who are, by your own reasoning, in it for themselves.

            Or rotten market conditions. There are plenty of reasons for people to act tribally.

  3. Cederic Silver badge

    IT skills are fungible

    Make it unattractive to employ you and companies will find more attractive options.

    Whether in this case the law was broken I'll let the NLRB determine but outsourcing to avoid a union? Kind of an obvious move, and easily done without breaking the law, especially if your outsourced resource is cheap because they're in Poland.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: IT skills are fungible

      Union membership in Poland is higher than in the US and overtime pay is mandatory so it might not be as cheap as they think.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: it might not be as cheap as they think

        There's a reason why 1M Poles are working in the UK! Having many Polish friends, if they had outstanding salaries in Poland, that's where they'd be, make no mistake. I don't think there are many restaurants in the US where you can pick up a meal for $3

      2. Imhotep Silver badge

        Re: IT skills are fungible

        Overtime pay is also mandatory by law in the US for "hourly" workers. Recent court rulings have been expanding it to "management" in cases where the salaried workers didn't really have a management function.

        When I hear of Poland and unions, I think of Solidarity, Lech Walesa and the fall of the Soviet Union.

    2. pop_corn

      Re: IT skills are fungible

      > "Make it unattractive to employ you and companies will find more attractive options."

      Agreed. Whilst unions may have started out with laudable goals and were useful 50 years ago when there were few employers in town and workers had little choice and fewer options, that's not the case any more for many industries, IT especially.

      Any form of protectionist interference in a labour market (which is what the unions exist for) is anti-competitive, anti-business, and ultimately anti-worker. Why do you think China has become the factory of the world with a positive balance of payments of around a $Trillion (with a T!) every year? Lower regulation / less red tape, it's as simple as that.

      Unionisation is short term gain for long term pain, as evidenced by this story.

      If you don't like your working environment / conditions / pay, then either make yourself indispensable and renegotiate from a position of power, or vote with your feet and leave, retraining / up-skilling as you go if necessary.

      Unionisation will not only work against you in the long term, but it's a lazy move, abdicating your individual bargaining power to someone else, hoping they negotiate in good faith on your behalf.

      1. Insert sadsack pun here

        Re: IT skills are fungible

        "Lower regulation / less red tape, it's as simple as that."

        You're bonkers or maybe just ill-informed. The Chinese economy is highly regulated and there is a lot of red tape. It's just that that control is not exercised for the benefit of workers, consumers, citizens or the environment, that's all.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: IT skills are fungible

        abdicating your individual bargaining power to someone else, hoping they negotiate in good faith on your behalf.

        Very true. I've resisted joining any uinion for 40 years of career, and over that time I've never seen a union-driven pay agreement that was better than I was able to negotiate myself.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: that was better than I was able to negotiate myself.

          Can't wait for your boss to realise that they can get 2 super keen graduates for the price of one self important senior dev.

          1. Cederic Silver badge

            Re: that was better than I was able to negotiate myself.

            Realise? I tell them!

            I'm not competing with graduates. They can't do my job. I can however help train them to do theirs.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: that was better than I was able to negotiate myself.

            Can't wait for your boss to realise that they can get 2 super keen graduates for the price of one self important senior dev.

            Three companies, many hiring and layoff phases, I'm still here. My bosses seem to think I'm worth what they pay me.

      3. Richocet

        Re: IT skills are fungible

        China uses forced labor on a mass scale - mostly from people selected on ideological, religious, or ethnic grounds. Nobody should be expected to compete with that to be more attractive financially as an employee.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: IT skills are fungible

        "Why do you think China has become the factory of the world"

        The average Chinese worker is now paid significantly more than the equivalent UK or USA one

  4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Union Negotiation

    When I was a member of a union at the start of my career I found that union negotiators would quite happily offset perks of the job against wage increases so that they could claim success.

    Typically they would come back to "the members" to say yes, we've got you a really good pay-deal, but management drove a hard bargain and, in return we've agreed to cut some "minor" perks.

    For example, where I was, staff had to clock-in in the morning, but didn't have to clock-out at night, which was actually a really good perk for those travelling around, as they could arrange their work itinerary to finish close to home, amounting to several hours a week effectively finishing early. After one particular pay-deal, everyone had to clock in and out. So this wasn't well received by those expoiting that perk. I arrived on the scene soon after this change, and there was a lot of bitterness towards the union because of it.

    What this means for management is that they can use the unions as a valuable tool to clamp down on undesirable practices and to deflect the blame onto bad union negotiation. Invariably it would be the unions instigating the negotiation, so management had no need to broach the erosion of rights to workers, the unions did it for them. What you read in the press is what the unions want you to hear, the concessions are quietly skimmed over.

    1. sabroni Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: What you read in the press is what the unions want you to hear

      How does that work then? Which union is it that exerts editorial control over the UK press?

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Which union is it that exerts editorial control over the UK press?

        Any newspaper that leans more to the "working classes" is more likely to listen to what the union says, rather than what "fat cat" management says.

        Do you think the union that has newspaper workers as its members would have some kind of bias as to editorial content?

  5. six_tymes

    but no backlash when multi-millions of jobs went overseas for 8 years under obama. please, spare me the bs. do you not recall the famous incident when obama was confronted by a journalist during his speech about job losses? the bold journalist asked "Mr. president, people are worried about the massive job losses and millions of jobs going overseas, why isn't your administration doing anything to stop the losses." Obama's defeatists attitude answer: "your gonna just have to accept it, those jobs aren't going to come back." you may not like trump, because you got brain washed by the left in Hollywood spreading hate, but at least trump is Trying, unlike obama who was happy to see massive job losses in the US.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Let's have the whole quote:

      “When somebody says like the person you just mentioned who I’m not going to advertise for, that he’s going to bring all these jobs back. Well how exectly are you going to do that? What are you going to do? There’s no answer to it. He just says. “I’m going to negotiate a better deal.” Well how? How exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually the answer is, he doesn’t have an answer.

      Four years later, did Trump have an answer?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        quite literally he did

        We're there not some 300,000+ manufacturing jobs created under the orange one's watch?

        1. Insert sadsack pun here

          Re: quite literally he did

          Were any of those jobs returning from overseas as a result of something that Trump did?

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Odd that Trump supporters claim he is the amazing one that has bought unemployment down in the US and Obama did nothing.

      So here have some facts instead.

      https://www.macrotrends.net/1316/us-national-unemployment-rate

      As you can see Unemployment was a constant downward trajectory since 2010. In fact if you look at the chart, the rate off fall has slowed slightly in the last few years.

      But hey, facts, fake news I guess.

  6. Blackjack Silver badge

    I don't want to defend Google

    But literally every single tech company is outsourcing to cheaper places as much as they can.

  7. Adelio Bronze badge

    Unions

    I live in the UK.

    I have Only been a member of a union once, and that was against my will.

    I hark back to 1976 when i got a job at a printers. At the time you HAD to join the SOGAT UNION as the place was a close shop.

    Later on I had a job at a rivet makers. I was NOT a union member. The Unions were still quite strong and the shop steward decided to call his member out. Without bothering with a Vote.

    As a NONE union member I declined the offer of joining the "brothers" and went through the lines.

    I never had any qualms about ignoring the UNION. I had too many years previous watching the unions trying to run the country. Three days weeks, Electricty brown outs, The rantings of "Red Ken" at Ford. Arthur Scargill was a real piece of work and eventually managed to destroy the coal mining industry in the UK.

    After so much good being done by the unions at the beggining of their life they finally decended into Farce. You know what they say, Power Corrupts, Absolute power....

    The UK seems to be a bit (or a lot) better than the USA with unions and their behaviour.. But everyone should have the right to join a union.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Unions

      Umm, the 3 day week and the brown outs were an attempt by the government to deal with the oil crisis at the time and was not brought about by union actions, though they were screwing up plenty of other things at the time.

      I still have the petrol coupons we were issued as a small business.

    2. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: Unions

      "The rantings of "Red Ken" at Ford..."

      You're getting your leftie boogiemen mixed up. Red Ken was Ken Livingstone, the leader of the Greater London Council. Red Robbo was the trades union leader who was at British Leyland, not Ford. Not surprising you're getting confused as all this stuff happened half a century ago.

  8. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Only one uniion is allowed in the USA

    All other unions are basically considered to be democrat communist agitators attacking the US and everyone fights them to eliminate them - so this story is not unusual. They should have joined the police union instead in which case their jobs would have been protected no matter who they shot.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With HCL No Surprise here !!!

    Hello,

    I worked for this sh@t hole company for 2 years.

    I was not even allowed to take my 2 week paid leave vacation per year .

    Just a typical Indian sh@t hole company.

    Avoid at any cost.

  10. DBAosaurus

    Re. Unions

    The main purpose of a union is to protect and improve its members' work lives, and the dignity that goes with that. But it' goes beyond just that:

    In my younger days I worked for a small telecoms company called BT - at first was very grateful to them, they took me off the unemployment register, paid decently and gave superb technical training. A few years later in 1991, they reported £3 billion in profit, a lot of money in those days; and at the same time announced that for the first time in their corporate life they were going to the City to borrow a further half billion - not to improve the network, or to pay for the next generation of telephone exchanges or for any other infrastructure, but to finance a redundancy programme!

    Capitalism is sick and it makes people do sick things - on my floor everyone over 40 was 'offered' redundancy - never mind that they were the most experienced members of the core billing system; they'd been there longer than younger people and their salaries had progressed, so they were targeted.

    Whoever made this decision were quite possibly decent people at heart, who loved their homes and children, but the twisted logic of the situation drove them to it.

    If you just accept that this is natural and normal and make no protest, then it seems to me that a small part of you dies with that acquiescence. You need an organised voice to have any hope of combatting obscenities like this. For whoever's left on the payroll, no surprise, BT's shaft-the-staff mode is regarded as completely 'normal' and natural, and continues to this day.

    PS Re. With HCL No Surprise here!!!

    Heartily seconded! After 2 years' exposure to their work 'culture', Hermann Goering's saying comes to mind: "Whenever I hear the word 'Culture' I reach for my revolver."

    1. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: Re. Unions

      “ A few years later in 1991, they reported £3 billion in profit, a lot of money in those days; and at the same time announced that for the first time in their corporate life they were going to the City to borrow a further half billion - not to improve the network, or to pay for the next generation of telephone exchanges or for any other infrastructure, but to finance a redundancy programme!”

      Seems. Like you are still bitter about that.

      Now days bt would outsource those divisions to <cheapest offshore outsourcer> who would then mess everyone about hoping as many long termers would leave instead of hanging out for redundancy.

      You lot where lucky BT cared enough to pay out generous redundancy. My sister said redundancy in her department was over subscribed, she got enough to pay off her mortgage and pay for uni. my uncle got 6 figures, early retirement on generous final salary etc etc. You’d have to be in finance to get that nowadays.

  11. Robert Grant Silver badge

    Most egregiously, HCL has been eroding its Pittsburgh workforce by brazenly moving work done here to its facility in Krakow, Poland

    Internal moving of work is pretty normal, if the work is simple enough to be managed remotely.

  12. riffrafff

    Google, I recognized your foul stench the moment I was brought on board.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Companies promote all the LGBT stuff, and then transfer their work to countries with Homophobic Governments and local councils, like Poland.

    Just goes to show making money means more than their supposed diversity claims.

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