Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Thirteen former employees charge in a suit filed against the University of California Board of Regents that they were laid off because of their age, sex, race, or national origin. UCSF administrators eliminated about 100 IT positions in February, sending most of the responsibilities to Indian workers through a contract with HCL Technologies, an outsourcing firm. UCSF supervisors told the U.S. workers the layoffs would save the university $30 million over five years.
UCSF is believed to be the first public university in the country to outsource a large number of IT jobs, a common practice in the private sector. Lawmakers criticized the UC system for replacing U.S. workers with foreign replacements.
The criticism grew louder last month as state auditors discovered the UC Office of the President had tallied $175 million in undisclosed discretionary and restricted funds.
Gary Gwilliam, attorney for the former employees, said the university mistreated the workers and misused the visa system in the process. The suit claims foreign workers on H-1B visas were brought in for the project, although the university has denied the charge.
“This is not just outsourcing as usual,” he said. “These are public funds. I don’t think a university should outsource this.”
In a statement, UCSF said IT costs have tripled between 2011 and 2016, largely due to the expansion of electronic medical records. “This growth rate is not sustainable,” it said.
The university said its various missions — including medical research, quality care and serving poor communities — must be cost-conscious. The office of UC President Janet Napolitano did not return a request for comment.
The suit, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, said workers were unfairly singled out for cost-cutting. All of the workers in the suit are over 40 years old and have decades of experience in information technology. One man worked at UCSF for 31 years, and several others worked at the university for more than a decade.
UCSF administrators summoned IT workers to a meeting in July and announced it would be outsourcing about one-fifth of its work to HCL Industries. Administrators cut 97 positions, including 49 career employees, 30 contractors and 18 vacant jobs, according to the suit. The last of the laid off workers left UCSF at the end of February. "Many of the terminated employees were forced to go through the indignity of training their significantly younger, male HCL replacements, to enable them to perform the work in India,” the suit said.
UCSF is one of 10 campuses in the California system, and offers graduate degrees in medicine and related fields. The medical center offers care to poor and under-served communities. UCSF has an annual budget of about $5.9 billion, and spends about two-thirds of its funds on salaries and benefits. Gwilliam said workers were outraged after hearing the office of the president — a department not directly related to UCSF — had collected a large surplus. “What’s going on here?” Gwilliam said. “It’s very disturbing.”