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Outsource Yourself
February 6, 2009 1:38 PM   Subscribe

IBM solves the outsourcing problem by firing American employees then offering to re-hire them in India. "The pitch to employees who might consider shifting to IBM's operations in developing economies seems to be the low cost of living, warmer climate and variety in cuisine and exotic places."
posted by billysumday (86 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Rather than shipping all those bodies over there, wouldn't it be more efficient to continue the process of imposing their economic standard of living on us here?
posted by Joe Beese at 1:44 PM on February 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


So, if I offshore myself, can I then re-import myself as an H1b?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:46 PM on February 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Please to take our jobs and come again! (Said in Apu's voice.)
posted by jamstigator at 1:50 PM on February 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


now where did I leave that hammer and sickle....
posted by geos at 1:55 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm sure there's nothing that IBM employees are looking forward to more than being shipped to other continents to keep their jobs, training up the locals, then getting sacked and stranded half the world awaybecause the locals they just trained get paid 10% what they do.

In 10 years, sunburnt middle managers will be the new underclass for “developing markets” everywhere.
posted by Shepherd at 1:55 PM on February 6, 2009


This must be the most un-patriotic thing I've ever seen a company do. Not only is it outsourcing a job, the tax revenue, and the economic stimulus and re-investment, but it's aggressively and actively removing talent from our shores.

Brain Drain done right I guess.
posted by butterstick at 1:56 PM on February 6, 2009 [14 favorites]


I Been Moved
posted by infinitewindow at 1:57 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Shepherd, I would assume that these employees are being paid a commensurate salary based on their destination area. Otherwise it's not much of a cost savings. The stated purpose of the project: "identify potential opportunities in growth markets and facilitate consideration by hiring managers in those markets,"

That's a possible internal transfer to a totally new job.
posted by mkb at 1:58 PM on February 6, 2009


I'm sure there's nothing that IBM employees are looking forward to more than being shipped to other continents to keep their jobs, training up the locals, then getting sacked and stranded half the world awaybecause the locals they just trained get paid 10% what they do.

Actually, these employees would be paid what those locals would make. So it would be more like "get shipped to another continent for the privilege of getting a 90% pay cut".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:02 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's all coming up Milhouse.
posted by chunking express at 2:02 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wow- the phrase "You couldn't pay me to live in India" becomes a reality.
posted by Zambrano at 2:03 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shepherd, I would assume that these employees are being paid a commensurate salary based on their destination area.

Fantastic! Except the loan officer for my college loans kinda looked at me funny when I told him I would be sending my payments in rupee.
posted by butterstick at 2:04 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


A new corporate low, that.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:04 PM on February 6, 2009


You know, given where both countries are headed, I might just take it.
posted by orthogonality at 2:06 PM on February 6, 2009


This must be the most un-patriotic thing I've ever seen a company do

Companies do not belong to countries. Corporations have allegiance to profit and future growth, anything else is negotiable.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:07 PM on February 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


I Been Moved

Yeah, well, that used to mean you got moved from one state to another, often because you were getting promoted. And IBM, not all that long ago, was one of the last holdouts of the old "work for us for life and get a gold watch when you retire" corporations. Both my parents and an aunt and uncle worked for IBM at one point, it's how they all met each other (except for my mother and her sister, of course). I think my uncle still does, if he hasn't retired.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:08 PM on February 6, 2009


Asking someone to relocate to a distant place, and to then work on a "local contract" is not cool.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:12 PM on February 6, 2009


Companies do not belong to countries. Corporations have allegiance to profit and future growth, anything else is negotiable.

Yeah, and this move pretty much shows exactly what's wrong with that philosophy. It used to be "we give you a living, you provide us a service, we're both happy." Now it's "we'll make your family destitute to shave a few pennies off the bottom line."
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:15 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Companies do not belong to countries. Corporations have allegiance to profit and future growth, anything else is negotiable.

Unless you need a bailout. Then it is all patriotism all the time.
posted by birdherder at 2:20 PM on February 6, 2009 [42 favorites]


This is absolutely fucking amazing. Seriously, I'm stunned.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:26 PM on February 6, 2009


this is a breakthough for scientists studing theoretical limits of cynicism.
posted by boo_radley at 2:29 PM on February 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


You've got it right: corporations owe nothing to the nation they may have offices in. Only to shareholders etc to make as much money in whatever manner they can. Circuit City in a much smaller way did something like this: fired all its help and then told them they could have jobs back at much less a salary. But such things are in part the result of the decline of unions.

Take the makers of Levis, the great jean outfit. They alone stayed in America till they saw that customers were buying cheaper jeans made in various countries where costs were much less for labor etc. Finally, they joined the jean exodus and now have their stuff made out of the country.

Is there anything that can be done about it? Only if you pass laws of some kind, but lobby groups and politicians will heed the word of the money people, not the workers, so there is no solution.
Before moving to India, see Slumdog Millionaire and then decide.

But then with global recession, India may not need you either. What are unemployment benefits like there?
posted by Postroad at 2:30 PM on February 6, 2009


IBM contact information:

IBM Corporation
1 New Orchard Road
Armonk, New York 10504-1722
United States

E-mail: E-mail: askibm@vnet.ibm.com

Register your disgust.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 2:31 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, that is super, super fucked up. In 2007 IBM's CEO was paid twenty million dollars. And while IBM has recently been a little more progressive than most, I can't support a company that wants to ship Americans overseas to work for pennies on the dollar. That's some evil Shadowrun shit right there.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:32 PM on February 6, 2009


I assumed the FPP was hyperbole that IBM wasn't actually firing people and then offering to hire them at local wages on the other side of the planet, but it sounds like that really is what they're doing.

But not just India: Nigeria, and Russia as well as Argentina, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Turkey, and United Arab Emirates.

Craziness.

On the other hand, I don't think is all just a big "fuck you" to the employees. I'm assuming they have profitable projects in those countries, and do not have profitable projects here. A lot of what IBM does is "consulting" for business now and so what they are doing is actually the reverse of outsourcing. Companies and governments in those countries would be outsourcing work to IBM, and they probably want on-site people to do it. Obviously that can't be done from the US so you have to send people to those places.
posted by delmoi at 2:33 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, these employees would be paid what those locals would make. So it would be more like "get shipped to another continent for the privilege of getting a 90% pay cut".

That doesn't make a lot sense - there's no incentive to move then. If, instead, they gave them a 70% pay cut they would be making three times their native counterparts and could live like kings there.

Until they got lynched.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:34 PM on February 6, 2009


This is the most Onionesque news story I've seen in a while. In Capitalist America, job outsources you!
posted by Zed at 2:36 PM on February 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic, and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today.

And YOU have meddled with the primal forces of nature. And you will atone.

Am I getting through to you, Mister Beale?

You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today.


- Network (1976) [Video]
posted by churl at 2:37 PM on February 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


From the 2nd link:
IBM, which has reportedly laid off over 4,500 employees in the US since the beginning of 2009, is said to be offering financial assistance to offset moving costs, and will provide immigration support such as visa assistance and other support under its Project Match. The project was established by IBM to help employees locate potential job opportunities in growth markets.

Would it amount to a revolutionary move on IBM's part to effect easier mobility of trained human capital across borders? "Not really," said a senior HR recruiter. "Rather, it seems to be a revolutionary way to save on higher health and social security costs, which IBM would have to pay its employees in the US. Transferring them makes sense and also makes for good PR back home," he said, expressing doubts whether too many US employees would take this offer.
Bonus fun: no project placement, so you have to find new projects to join on your own. Additionally, IBM has a strict employee performance rating system in India, so if you were fired for poor work in the US, you might be fired again for poor work in India.

If you're up for a wild adventure that might result in you having a job, and you have some money to spend on travel, it sounds like a better option than a series of temp jobs in the US. And if you're really crafty and resourceful, you could get a book written from your experiences.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:42 PM on February 6, 2009


Hey Thomas fucking Friedman! Where the hell are you now with your walrus ass moustache and big flapping gums telling us how great outsourcing is!?

Take you right to the fucking edge of your flat fucking world and drop you right the fuck off it.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:44 PM on February 6, 2009 [13 favorites]


I would seriously consider this. But I's young enough that I could uproot my life without much consequence, I don't have anyone to support or college loan obligations. It's ridiculous to expect that many people would not have some kind of financial obligation that requires them to maintain their same standard of living. And the lack of job security is just appalling.
posted by piratebowling at 2:49 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


"I's"? what the hell, piratebowling? That should have been "I'm".
posted by piratebowling at 2:50 PM on February 6, 2009


Delmoi, that theory doesn't hold any water. It would be easier to just not fire them in the first place, and offer them an overseas job. Of course that would mean maintaining salary and benefits, rather than fucking them over. I have no idea how this is supposed to make for "good PR" at home, unless they're hoping people will just dismiss it outright as too ludicrous.
posted by odinsdream at 2:54 PM on February 6, 2009


This must be the most un-patriotic thing I've ever seen a company do

What's the most patriotic thing you've ever seen a company do? Hire only people born and bred in the country (maybe third-generation or more) and buy only parts made by similarly pure workforces? Refuse to make anything but flags and miniature Shriner cars? Go bankrupt rather than shift into overseas job markets?

IBM is being very American: applying cut-throat capitalism, it lays off people where it doesn't need people and where people are overpriced, and it hires people where it needs people and where people are underpriced. And rather than limit itself to job candidates from India in India, it offers to hire the best qualified people from anywhere (or is it just from America?) who are willing to work in India for Indian wages.
posted by pracowity at 2:55 PM on February 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


IBM would not immediately confirm if it means that the workers would be paid local wages and would be subject to local labor laws.

...or lack thereof.
posted by goethean at 2:56 PM on February 6, 2009


Hey Thomas fucking Friedman! Where the hell are you now with your walrus ass moustache and big flapping gums telling us how great outsourcing is!?

Take you right to the fucking edge of your flat fucking world and drop you right the fuck off it.


Wow, Afroblanco, did someone just move your cheese, or what?
posted by sour cream at 3:01 PM on February 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Aw, man, I saw that Simpsons.
posted by klangklangston at 3:02 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This sounds unfortunate, but these people were going to get fired anyway, right? So IBM is just offering them the chance of finding another job, albeit overseas and for very low pay. But if IBM didn't offer them that, they'd still be out of a job and have one fewer prospect.

Not that I like the idea of IBM shipping jobs overseas, but I can see how they can claim that they're trying to improve an already bad situation for their workers.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:04 PM on February 6, 2009


Circuit City in a much smaller way did something like this...

Circuit City - yeah, I remember them!

How'd that work out, dumping their most experienced employees?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:11 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, Afroblanco, did someone just move your cheese, or what?

You know, I totally had to look that up. Is that common vernacular now?

But no, nobody "moved my cheese." I just generally despise Friedman. And I'd just love to see someone try and publish a book like "The World Is Flat" during a recession like this.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:12 PM on February 6, 2009


So IBM is just offering them the chance of finding another job, albeit overseas and for very low pay. But if IBM didn't offer them that, they'd still be out of a job and have one fewer prospect.

If you read the second article, this development is way more insidious than that. IBM is not offering them jobs. It is offering them the opportunity to work at local rates on projects that they - themselves - have to identify. The key phrases are:
"Workers who are being offered placements in developing countries like India have also been told that they would have to seek out their projects once they join operations here. No project placements, that much is clear," and
"IBM has also implemented a policy which calls for work hour utilisation per employee to exceed at least 85 per cent of the total working hours stipulated in a month. Any employee failing to meet this ceiling would be put on the list of underperformers."
So you move to a foreign country, get paid 10% of your previous wage, and then have to compete on an ongoing basis with local employees for places on short-term projects. What a deal.
posted by Susurration at 3:15 PM on February 6, 2009


I could never figure why a big enough company didn't just go buy Ecuador or somewhere and move all its back-end operations there to avoid taxes completely. Make it like a secular Saudi Arabia.
posted by GuyZero at 3:26 PM on February 6, 2009


Those are the nations of the world today.

You know what the one nice thing about corporations developing a nationalistic-type identity?

You can declare war on a nation.

I'm not saying that I want anyone from IBM to be harmed, but the thing is, nations have things like armed conflicts and the risks of open rebellion with people being put against the wall and shot to keep them in check, it doesn't work much of the time, but at least it's an option. When a corporation gets big enough, they don't even have this to worry about. They can just move their headquarters to a different location and keep acting in a way that benefits no one but their shareholders.

I never really thought of myself as being particularly anti-corporate, but in light of the way the world seems to be moving, I may have to revisit those parts of my personality and see what scary tumors have appeared.
posted by quin at 3:27 PM on February 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just generally despise Friedman. And I'd just love to see someone try and publish a book like "The World Is Flat" during a recession like this.

Oh, I totally agree about Friedman. And I secretly worship Matt Taibbi.
Comparing Friedman with Hitler in the very first paragraph and then going on to deliver the most delicious criticism of the wonkiness that is Friedman -- brilliant.
posted by sour cream at 3:34 PM on February 6, 2009


As a recently RA-ed IBM employee (RA= "Resource Action") I have to say that this doesn't surprise me in the smallest. What this just reeks of is some IBM executive trying to claim later about how "they tried to give US-based employees every option blah blah blah"
posted by deadmessenger at 3:37 PM on February 6, 2009


Someone at IBM must have been watching season 5 of the West Wing
posted by acro at 3:57 PM on February 6, 2009


This must be the most un-patriotic thing I've ever seen a company do...

Companies do not belong to countries. Corporations have allegiance to profit and future growth, anything else is negotiable...


If we're sticking to free-market principles, it's a lose-lose situation. Either we raise taxes and enact laws in order to cover these losses and encourage companies to keep jobs here, and be painted as protectionist, or we let companies do pretty much what they want just for the sake of keeping them around and lose any quality of life as the vast majority of our population sinks back into a victorian-era wage slavery.

Yes, IBM owes me nothing. But my representatives do.

I never really thought of myself as being particularly anti-corporate, but in light of the way the world seems to be moving...

That's because they've worked so very, very hard to keep their actions from the public eye. A free market works best when it requires that all participants be rational actors, and make informed, educated decisions. Some corporations have expended a great deal of effort making sure that the the other participants make irrational and uneducated market decisions. In regards to these market actors, what we have been laboring under can only loosely be called a 'free' market.
posted by eclectist at 4:02 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, it IS pure, unbridled, cold-hearted, American-style capitalism. That's true. Maybe we shouldn't pat each other on the back so often for perfecting such a thing because the results aren't always pretty.

On the other hand, they better not come seeking any kind of bailout. If they do, we should immediately fire their executives then offer to rehire them at local rates in Afghanistan. You know, 'just to make sure they have every option available to them' blah blah blah.
posted by jamstigator at 4:05 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sour cream - great link: "Everything that would give an IBM human resources director a boner, that's a flattener."
posted by benzenedream at 4:10 PM on February 6, 2009


Seems like the Yes Men got beaten at their own game.
posted by vivelame at 4:16 PM on February 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is so fucked up, there's gotta be more to this story.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:21 PM on February 6, 2009


This could be appealing to people who have family in one of those countries. It's not unheard of for people to move back to India. If you got load off and were planning on moving back anyway, then why not take this offer? I doubt many of their employees will, but they're still (very, very, very) slightly better off than if they had just been laid off without the option. What do you think IBM would have done--not had layoffs at all?
posted by jewzilla at 4:21 PM on February 6, 2009


This is capitalism. Workers sell their labour like a commodity. And expensive American employees aren't what IBM wants to buy anymore.
posted by chunking express at 4:34 PM on February 6, 2009


"Either we raise taxes and enact laws in order to cover these losses and encourage companies to keep jobs here, and be painted as protectionist,"

Well, no, we can also raise taxes (especially done progressively) to invest in greater infrastructure, which improves the quality of life for everyone and also makes it easier to innovate and move forward with the economy. We also can work to support unions abroad (Stalin's greatest ideological failure was retreating from an internationalized socialism), which will decrease the comparative advantage of moving folks overseas while also increasing their standard of living.

But that takes political balls, and the will to stand up to the right wing plutocrats who control the party that was until recently the majority. A rising tide does indeed raise all boats, but piss trickling down isn't nearly as effective as filling in trenches.
posted by klangklangston at 4:39 PM on February 6, 2009


I've been to India and, um, I understand why so many Indians move to the US.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:00 PM on February 6, 2009


Cute.

Here's a fucking bill for the infrastructure, educated workforce and political stability we provided over the last few decades, without which IBM would never have become IBM.

Pay on your way out, assholes.
posted by jason's_planet at 5:16 PM on February 6, 2009 [10 favorites]


I know corporations don't have souls, and they're answerable to stockholders and the bottom line, but this sucks more than usual.

My dad got a job with IBM in the 1950's while he was working on a two-year electrical engineering degree (he never got the degree). He worked for IBM for friggin 30 years. My mom was able to stay at home with my brother and I. We went on vacation every summer. They put us through college. A lot of the nice stuff and opportunites I have today is because of my Dad's career at IBM. I want to like IBM.

Fuck you IBM.
posted by marxchivist at 5:19 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


low cost of living, warmer climate and variety in cuisine and exotic places

1. Low cost of living. No. Mumbai is almost as expensive as NYC. There is, however, a low standard of living.

2. Warmer climate. Yes. But, um, where do you live again? California? So it's like California, only hotter. Oh, and when there's not 98% humidity, it's pouring rain. For four months.

3. Variety in cuisine. No. You will be eating beans and rice. They've got a million different ways of making beans and rice in India, but it's still beans and rice every time.

4. Exotic places. Yes. Exotic languages too, not to mention all the exotic diseases. Snakes, spiders, slums--those are all exotic, right? Remember though, when you move someplace exotic, you will be the exotic foreigner.

One more thing: Congratulations, America, you are now India's Mexico.

Also: There's still an IBM???
posted by Sys Rq at 5:23 PM on February 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


This was a long time in coming, if not IBM, then somebody. I bet, over the next few years, this becomes a lot more common.

There's something to be said for it, though. That is, that Americans can bring best practices to India, and this opens them up for a hefty salary a few years down the road when they get promoted to manager and poached by other Indian companies looking to emulate IBM. That's been my experience in China. "Locals", while perfectly competent human being, tend to be missing a lot of training on the ground here.

If we're speaking about software, almost every office I have the chance to discuss computers with tells me that their business suffers from chronic, massive computer failure. I mean on a scale that you wouldn't believe. There are some cases where I've seen offices buying new computers for their employees every 3 months. That's because domestic virus scanning software doesn't list domestic spyware for fear of a libel suit, and they don't know that AVG has a Chinese version. It's simply that no one told them. Just the fact that I've surfed the "Western" internet for some length of time allows me to do that. I brought back one of their "dead" machines in an hour, and spent 10 minutes showing them how to use it.

There was an office I worked in where it took them 2 days to reinstall windows, because their tech knowledge only went as far as not letting employees install/download anything. The "techie" on staff was trying CD after CD and asking ME if that was all the necessary software. Meanwhile I wasn't getting anything done. I had a long, painful, ugly conversation with the manager about disc imaging and setting up a RAID and remote clients over their network, plus automatic backups and encryption. I took $300 and made it so that they never had to wrestle with discs and reinstalls again.

That's nothing but exposure to what is considered moderate computer literacy in the West. It's not that "locals" are stupid, or are bad at their jobs, it's just that at least in China, much of the corpus of computer literacy is missing from their digital education. The same kind of gaps exist in management, linguistic training, marketing, statistics...and that's just the stuff I'm halfway competent with. There are bigger, more yawning gaps in media management, visa consulting, marketing...and the "locals" will pay out the ass to get at it, if you learn their industry and how to cross the cultural gaps. Working and competing directly with "locals" is by far the best cultural education there is. This could be a good thing, and if you're paying attention, the dots aren't hard to connect once you're among the "locals".

I hope IBM knows that, and trains its people for a role that benefits them. If they don't, then yeah, they can kiss my ass.
posted by saysthis at 6:30 PM on February 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


The whole idea of outsourcing makes me wish that something like the WTO had global minimum wages built in. That and basic environmental standards and I'd probably support free trade... or at least be less against it. The other option, in my world, is to tax corporations that move operations overseas but still does predominate business within America.
posted by edgeways at 6:56 PM on February 6, 2009


If I asked for a job from them right now, would they give me this offer or straight up turn me away?

Because honestly this is very appealing to me, corporate morals and patriotism be damned.
posted by jellywerker at 7:00 PM on February 6, 2009


It's really simple to take the wind out plans like this without being protectionist. It goes sumpin' like this:

" As a valuable member of the American economy- you know, the system that let's you guys at the top get rich easier than any other system in the world - you are free to manage your companies as you see fit. If you choose to outsource jobs, but bring your products back for domestic sale (or just keep your headquarters here for the perks), then you will pay one BIG FUCKING PUNITIVE TARIFF to do business here. Don't like that? Leave. Your choice, of course."

I mean, really, does the "don't bite the hand that feeds you" concept not apply to corporations? To paraphrase the late, great Molly Ivins: I am really fucking tired of the corporate elite in this country " being born on third plate and thinking they hit a triple." Marie Antoinette had nothing on these guys.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:20 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


1. Low cost of living. No. Mumbai is almost as expensive as NYC. There is, however, a low standard of living.

yeh, if you move into a hotel on marine drive. else, a whole fish dinner goes for about a dollar, a vada pao breakfast for about a quarter, local trains and buses for about a dime. where in nyc do you hang out again? do tell.

3. Variety in cuisine. No. You will be eating beans and rice. They've got a million different ways of making beans and rice in India, but it's still beans and rice every time.

um, what on earth are you goin' on about. rajma and channa are the main bean & rice concoctions, which you'll mostly find at lunchtime dhabas in the north. in the south, beans are rare. heres a primer (note b&r not pictured). i suggest chettinad and bengali cuisine to start off with. or wait, hyderabadi might do you good. nothing like capsin to silence the tongue.
posted by whiterussian at 8:29 PM on February 6, 2009


Hey Thomas fucking Friedman! Where the hell are you now with your walrus ass moustache and big flapping gums telling us how great outsourcing is!?

Take you right to the fucking edge of your flat fucking world and drop you right the fuck off it.


That's what happened to his Bank Account General Growth Properties was his wife's company. In July it was worth 10 billion dollars, now it's worth 200 million, it lost 97% of it's value, and has had to give up a bunch of it's malls (It's a mall holding company).

So in this case one of the most deserving got what, uh, they deserved. :)
posted by delmoi at 9:54 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Many global tech companies have had intra-company transfer packages for a long, long time; I've had friends and colleagues who had re-located themselves from the US and France to Asia way back in 2004-05, for example; and both my previous (US-headquartered) firm and my current employer (which shall go nameless, but is in the same business) have had similar policies.

The rules in my firm were pretty simple:- a) you do the paperwork for visas etc, HR merely endorses them, b) be prepared for a pay-cut, c) the region you're transferring to must want you (so it's not enough to have an opening; the managers there must say that you match the skillset they need at the budget they want) and d) your manager in your local region should be okay with letting you go (he has the final say). I know there are some Microsofties out here on the Blue, they may correct me on this, but AFAIK, Microsoft also has a similar policy; people have re-located from Seattle to Beijing, Bangalore and Dublin (?)

I wouldn't be surprised if IBM has had a similar policy as well, even before the layoffs. (In fact, the more I think about it, the more I'm certain they did; I do recall meeting an IBM consultant once who re-located from Raleigh to Bangkok, I can't remember if it was on his own, or through his firm) In which case, only two things are new here:- that they've extended this programme to people laid off, and most importantly, that they're okay with a transfer even when the region receiving the transfer has no clear openings. That is just asking for trouble, as I see it; you'll be affecting morale of not just the transferees, but also of the people already there. In my limited experience, local work-culture _always_ beats over a global corporate work-culture; different regions in the same firm can easily have different ways of working and different performance metrics. Additionally, the tech industry has more than its usual share of socially-awkward colleagues; getting along with them will take more effort than befriending the geek in the cubicle next to you. All this will, obviously, impact your career progress; it is quite common for ex-pats to get frustrated very very quickly. Indeed, that the newcomers have to source for their own projects just makes it worse; you need truckloads of local contacts and knowledge to pull that off.

That said, Asia is a great place to work in tech; huge markets, lots of big challenges, mostly untapped. Asia is the place to be if you want to measure your output in not just technological or monetary terms, but in terms of social change. Consider this: India's national elections are just around the corner, an exercise that can easily involve 500 million+ adults. The Election Commission needs to maintain lists of voters in all 22 official languages, tracking updates in addresses and such, and making sure the transliteration between languages is accurate. The scale and complexity of their databases are massive, as are their technological challenges (How do you fuzzy-search in Assamese? What's the most efficient way of making these databases publically accessible? )

Once again, Asia probably isn't for everyone; this isn't the solution for creeping unemployment in the US. But don't misjudge the region by the bad roads you see; they are less of an annoyance, and more of an opportunity.
posted by the cydonian at 10:04 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If I asked for a job from them right now, would they give me this offer or straight up turn me away?

They might hire you if you were better than any other candidate, but I wouldn't count on that being the case. Indians with a good computer science education and professional skills aren't exactly exceptional, as you might notice if you look around an American computing-industry corporation, and a lot of them might want that job. I suspect you would have to have particularly good qualifications to make IBM risk hiring someone who might turn out to be a tourist disguised as a professional. They don't want you for a year or two before you move on to another company in another country, they want you for a career at IBM, perhaps all of it in India.
posted by pracowity at 10:05 PM on February 6, 2009


Wow. I did not realize IBM was evil. In fact, I thought they were supposed to be one of the better employers.

I sure wish I'd realized twenty years ago that I'd best be a shark, intent on making a few tens of millions of dollars before retirement. 'cause sure as hell, we middle-classers are going to see our standard of living drop to parity with Mexico, India, and China. Globalism is going to flatten us.

The ultra-wealthy won't be harmed, of course. Smart bastards saw it coming.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 PM on February 6, 2009


One of the things that bothers me about off-shoring is that North American IT workers can't all be managers or quality control, and this is going to hurt people... we're really starting to see the impact of off-shoring manufacturing and IT is the next industry being transported overseas. IBM knows damn well, that the majority of people who have walked the Earth die within about 8 miles of the spot they were born, and ripping people out of the communities where they belong is a piss-poor concession to the employees who gave their blood, sweat and tears to a company.

Nobody in the industry talks about fighting this, most IT workers are apolitical and seem to think we live in Star Trek and something will come out of replicator to feed us as we grow old and nobody dares breathe the word "union". There is nothing inevitable about globalization, free-trade, off-shoring, and sweatshops. If IT workers were French farmers, the smoke from tire fires would be blocking out the sun before corporations were allowed to pull this kind of shit.
posted by Deep Dish at 11:03 PM on February 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't the Indian government not allow this? I'm not sure about the health system there, but I'd imagine it's more socialized than in America, meaning that for every foreigner IBM dumps there the Indians would have to pay for potential medical costs. And what about schooling for their kids, if they have any? And if you're single and of the mindset of moving abroad, why go through IBM in the first place when, if you have the skills, you could apply directly to Indian firms?

I "outsourced" myself to Korea to teach English for various reasons, but only with the blessings of the government here (i.e., background and medical checks required to get my visa and register as an alien). I can't imagine the Indian government, or any government for that matter, happy to have immigrants who are only making local scale in a field that doesn't really require "foreign" know-how (as opposed to, say, being a native English speaker, which is the demand here).
posted by bardic at 11:42 PM on February 6, 2009


Here's a fucking bill for the infrastructure, educated workforce and political stability we provided over the last few decades, without which IBM would never have become IBM.

And while you're waiting for IBM to settle that, here's the bill to the USA from the rest of the world to pay for the sub-economic wages and natural resources that have allowed you to build that infrastructure and educated workforce, without which America would never have become America.

There's a bunch of African-Americans and Native Americans at the head of the queue. They say they want something called reparations?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:55 AM on February 7, 2009


...does the "don't bite the hand that feeds you" concept not apply to corporations?

I do believe that's a rhetorical question. A corporation will bite anything that bleeds money. To prevent the biting of things, you have to arrange it so that the things don't bleed money, or so that the corporation itself bleeds a larger sum if it bites the thing. Those arrangements have been becoming progressively scarcer in recent years.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:58 AM on February 7, 2009


I'd have a lot more respect for schemes like this if the CEO had to be the first to move to India and take a substantial paycut so they're being paid the local equivalent in cost of living terms.

Think how much more money the company would save on salaries and bonuses for the entire board paid in rupees; with the disparity in wage these days, one board member would be worth 500 engineers!
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:45 AM on February 7, 2009


GuyZero I could never figure why a big enough company didn't just go buy Ecuador or somewhere and move all its back-end operations there to avoid taxes completely.

You mean, something like this? I hear the employment conditions were also great.

(Now, seriously, Leopold II didn't just exploit the resources, human and otherwise, of the "Congo Free State". He also basically invented offshoring, offering Congo-incorporated companies as a way to avoid pesky fiscal and financial overseers).
posted by Skeptic at 5:04 AM on February 7, 2009


Correct link.
posted by Skeptic at 5:06 AM on February 7, 2009


Wouldn't the Indian government not allow this?

If IBM India has openings it can't fill with local talent, and if India wants IBM India to succeed, India will not give them trouble about hiring a few outsiders. But there are protectionists and jingoes all over the world -- this thread is evidence of the American variety -- and I'm sure some Indian officials will try to make political capital of this.

It is terrible to lose your job. I am living in dread of it all the time these days and so are many of you. But you have to expect layoffs in one place and hiring in another if you're even going to pretend to live in a country that's more capitalist than socialist. If the firing is in one country and the hiring is in another, it's part of the same game that gives you all of those amazingly cheap goods you buy every day. Funny how so many people yell "no fair!" when they start to lose the game.

One thing, though: stuff like this isn't so disruptive when your country guarantees everyone basic things like child care, maternity leave, education, medical care, and old-age care. Fight for those guarantees, real cradle-to-grave care, and be happy to pay for it in nice fat tax increases.

Just don't waste your time wishing for guaranteed jobs. They tried that shit and it doesn't work because people with guaranteed positions and non-shrinking paychecks start to compete to see who can do the least for a dollar, and then there's no money for that cradle-to-grave care everyone should get.
posted by pracowity at 5:21 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


So in this case one of the most deserving got what, uh, they deserved. :)

So, he still deserves to be filthy fucking rich? Because last I looked, being worth 200 million is still nothing to sneeze at. (yeah, I know 97% loss, but 200 million?!)
posted by piratebowling at 7:15 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


This must be the most un-patriotic thing I've ever seen a company do. (...) it's aggressively and actively removing talent from our shores.

you couldn't be more mistaken!

IBM is doing the american economy and even america itself an admirable service.
they are taking the average untraveled yank and showing them the world. you are being mocked around the planet for being a country of overweight couch potatoes who haven't been out of the country, much less to a gym*. by transferring parts of their workforce they are addressing both those stereotypes at once. let's face it - you haven't experienced a real diarrhea-weightloss-therapy until you've been to india.

IBM is also removing these people from the swelling ranks of the potentially unemployed. they are helping obama keep the unemployment rate down and lines in supermarkets short. and hey, less people to compete with means more job opportunities for you, too. even though the statistical chances of you having an education making you employable anywhere beyond a grill station are rather low.

I hope I was able to assist you in getting a clearer idea of just how great this is. all hail IBM!

*you also have deplorable taste in music, still haven't executed ashcroft and ruined my retirement fund. but those are different matters.
posted by krautland at 8:01 AM on February 7, 2009


They help you move over there, but do they help you get back home?

Which raises the question- what is home? If IBM is like the Big Brother I work for, chances are good that the sort of people who would take them up on this offer are already Indian. So maybe not that big an issue. I've noticed in recent years that my mixed neighbourhood is already losing some of the Indian population to better opportunities on the subcontinent.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:54 AM on February 7, 2009


What are the odds that this is just a scam to prevent those being laid off from qualifying for Unemployment Insurance?
posted by stet at 8:57 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Either we raise taxes and enact laws in order to cover these losses and encourage companies to keep jobs here, and be painted as protectionist"

So? Paint away! If that's the only drawback, I don't see the drawback.
posted by Eideteker at 9:40 AM on February 7, 2009


I can't imagine the Indian government, or any government for that matter, happy to have immigrants who are only making local scale in a field that doesn't really require "foreign" know-how (as opposed to, say, being a native English speaker, which is the demand here).

Since a huge amount of Indian IT work is in support of offshoring, these people could be tremendously valuable to India. Knowledge of how IT works here is in great demand there. And a lot of Indian developers have somewhat shallow knowledge - they're taught how to do things, but not why they should do them that way. At least that's my own personal observation, having spent a couple of months in India teaching developers.

you haven't experienced a real diarrhea-weightloss-therapy until you've been to india.

While I did have one bout of terrible diarrhea in India, it was only after eating at a fancy restaurant in a five-star hotel. The vast majority of my meals were from street vendors and cheap places, and I have to say I never ate so well in my life. Good, fresh, healthy food. And being a vegetarian, I enjoyed the ability to eat everywhere without having to ask questions about what's in the food.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:10 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


This must be the most un-patriotic thing I've ever seen a company do. Not only is it outsourcing a job, the tax revenue, and the economic stimulus and re-investment, but it's aggressively and actively removing talent from our shores.

Corporations aren't people - they feel no shame, no pity, no remorse. They only have one nerve, and it's connected to a financial receptor, not a social or national receptor. This kind of action feels good to a corporation. Now, the corporation awaits the reaction of the stock market, the delta in incoming contracts and lift charts of the data mining models, to decide if the decision was worth making.

People just don't come into it. Patriotism is a triviality, something to which people cling. Corporations are happy to exploit it if it feels financially good, happy to ignore it if there's no financial response, happy to dodge it if it doesn't make money. Talent is just another commodity - if they can buy it elsewhere, cheaper, why buy it here? If they can move it to another place and pay less for it, why not just move it?

I'm only surprised at the blatant, seemingly ruthless way in which IBM executed this cost-cutting measure. The measure itself shouldn't surprise anybody - disregarding the "people" part of the equation, it's simply good business.
posted by FormlessOne at 3:41 PM on February 7, 2009


The measure itself shouldn't surprise anybody - disregarding the "people" part of the equation, it's simply good business.

That's kinda the point, isn't it? It's like saving the car companies, but not the jobs. If American workers aren't part of the equation for American companies, why don't we just close up shop?

Notice that it's never upper management that gets put through these "changes" - not until, and unless, government gets involved.

Patriotism is a triviality, something to which people cling.

Generally, I agree with you. But this isn't about patriotism as much as it about fairness; a quid pro quo, if you will. American corporations thrive in a system that allows them to thrive. They owe something back. Asking them to do any voluntarily obviously hasn't worked.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:35 PM on February 7, 2009


American corporations thrive in a system that allows them to thrive.

Yes...

They owe something back.

...but no.

If you think that's part of the equation--that all companies doing business in the US owe something to the US other than the taxes they pay the federal, state, and local governments and the wages they pay their workers--then you're going to have to formulate exactly what it is you think companies owe and who they owe it to, and you're going to have to make it law. Then, in that changed business environment, companies will be able to decide whether it's still worth doing business in the US. If they "thrive in a system that allows them to thrive," it is a system that doesn't encumber them with rules that interfere with their international hiring. Change the rules and maybe they'll decide to stay, or maybe they'll decide to pack up entirely and move to somewhere else. Maybe India. It depends on what you're demanding.

But the US is fucked up in part because people depend on multinational corporations for things the US government should provide them (health care, pensions, child care, etc.). The US government, not IBM, should provide people these things, and the US government needs to tax you and IBM enough to pay for these things. Trust businesses to buy, manufacture, and sell things, not to run social programs.
posted by pracowity at 3:07 AM on February 8, 2009


While I did have one bout of terrible diarrhea in India, it was only after eating at a fancy restaurant in a five-star hotel. The vast majority of my meals were from street vendors and cheap places, and I have to say I never ate so well in my life. Good, fresh, healthy food. And being a vegetarian, I enjoyed the ability to eat everywhere without having to ask questions about what's in the food.

I had the exact same experience.
posted by krautland at 7:27 AM on February 8, 2009


Sepia Mutiny finally notices this story.
I can see it now, America’s best and brightest leave their homes and everything familiar to them to move overseas and start a new life, one fraught with cultural confusion. A new generation is born in India, one plagued by confusion and self-doubt.
posted by chunking express at 6:39 AM on February 19, 2009


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