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Outsource n’ Force: Citizens Bank is Latest Co. to Force Laid Off Workers to Train Replacements

Taking the Citizens out of Citizens Bank

Taking the Citizens out of Citizens Bank

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The story is the same, the location is different.  Like those who have been forced to do so by Disney, Fossil, and Southern California Edison, American informational technology workers at Citizens Bank in Rhode Island are participating in “knowledge transfer sessions” against their will in the leadup to their layoff. If that jargon’s gotcha in fits, let us clarify: before being laid off, these workers are made to train their replacements, in far away India. 

The ‘sessions’ are the final piece in Citizens Bank’s deal with IBM, which hosts its IT department in India.  The affected IT workers are expected to lose their jobs in early December.  

The exact number of workers is unknown, according to ComputerWorld:

The number of layoffs is in dispute. Employees said as many as 150 Citizen Bank IT workers were being laid off. But this number doesn’t include contractors. IBM will be consolidating the bank’s IT infrastructure services, and, as part of that, the bank is consolidating from four vendors to one vendor, IBM. This change will result in the elimination of some contractor jobs, and when contractors are added, the total layoff estimate by employees ranges from 250 to 350.

The bank says it is looking for jobs for the displaced workers, but those interviewed by ComputerWorld said the positions offered were short-term.

The situation at Citizens Bank is slightly different from those at Disney, Fossil, and Southern California Edison, where workers were replaced by contractor Infosys, who uses H-1B visa workers from India to lower labor costs for companies.  As ComputerWorld explains, Citizens Bank has used H-1B visa holders Infosys in the past, but this time is shifting jobs to IBM, which is filling the position physically in India.  The training of their own replacements is taking place remotely.   

Phil Fersht, CEO of HfS research, a consultancy and IT services research firm, explained that Orwellianly-named ‘knowledge transfer’ is now commonplace in the industry:

“IT outsourcing has become so commoditized today, it’s pretty commonplace for offshore worker training to be conducted almost entirely online and using video.  The shipping of people backwards and forwards between India and the U.S. is definitely slowing down as communication tools and training apps have improved.”

Donna Conroy, the executive director of Bright Future Jobs, spoke to several of the Citizens Bank IT workers and said that though knowledge transfer is fairly commonplace in such deals, this specific approach may be a first:

This is the first I’ve heard of exclusive use of web sessions for knowledge transfer.  IBM may have tailored this specifically for Citizens Bank to avoid any public backlash that may clash with Citizens Bank’s recently launched marketing campaign called ‘Ask a Citizen,’ featuring real-life Citizens’ employees.” But, she said, “the public won’t be fooled by this latest deceit.”

Speaking to ComputerWorld, one of the Citizens Bank IT workers perfectly summed up the frustrations of an industry once touted as a way to safeguard yourself from job security:

“What industry is left or what industry do we shift to?  IT was supposed to be the ‘future,’ but now even that is being taken away by greed and avarice by companies who have no foresight into the future beyond their next quarter profits.”


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