Former employees hope to stem future outsourcing

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(Host) A former employee of the National Life insurance company in Montpelier has formed a non-profit group to help others who have lost their jobs to outsourcing.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) At the end of January, Tim Abraham learned that his job at National Life was transferred to the Keane company, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in information technology. For now, the 54-year old Abraham is still employed by Keane. But he’s been told that in May, he’ll be out of a job unless Keane can land more contracts in the Montpelier area. About 60 other employees are in the same situation.

Meanwhile, some of the Vermont workers are training their Indian replacements. Abraham says that hasn’t made for a happy workplace.

(Abraham) “Part of the dark side of all this is that we actually have to sit down and explain to these people how we do our jobs. And the sole reason for that, the only reason for that, is so that they can do our jobs over in India.”

(Dillon) Abraham wants to turn his experience into something positive for the thousands of people who have lost their jobs when companies shifted work overseas. He’s founded the Globalization Watch Action Institute. One goal of the new organization is to study how other communities have dealt with outsourcing, and if those places have found solutions that could work elsewhere. Abraham will use – an Internet-based organization – to set up monthly meetings of outsourced workers all over the country.

(Abraham) “I’m sure we’ll have war stories and we’ll have sad stories, but the idea is to find those areas of the country where this has happened and where it’s been successfully addressed, and pass that information around.”

(Dillon) According to Abraham, the National Life situation is a microcosm of a macro-economic global trend. He says many of the outsourced workers in Vermont, for example, will lose the chance for a more comfortable retirement.

(Abraham) “Really, what we’re looking at here is the piece-by-piece, block-by-block, deconstruction of the middle class. What has been done here is people with 20 to 30 years experience who would have had a really nice pension, because they’re not going to be with National Life anymore. Their pension, or their retirement, is going to be about half of what it would have been.”

(Dillon) National Life expects to save $20 million over five years by outsourcing the information technology work. The company says the move allows it to focus on its core business.

There’s debate about what happens next. Abraham predicts more jobs will eventually be lost to outsourcing. But company spokesman Brian Vachon says that’s not the plan.

(Vachon) “I would never want to say we’re never going to outsource anything ever again, because that would be making a presumption that isn’t true. But to look at what we’re doing now to be a precursor to a larger, large-scale outsourcing group of interests, that just isn’t the case at all.”

(Dillon) The issue of outsourcing and the global economy will be examined in detail Monday night at a Montpelier forum sponsored by Congressman Bernie Sanders in Montpelier.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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