Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Off-topic, but still relevant

The founder and guiding light of Type M for so long, Vicki Delany, has been doing some tweeting the past day or so, and all of a sudden, the media is calling for interviews. Is it all because of her latest novel, or something she’s done as an author? Unfortunately not. This is all about her previous life, working for the Royal Bank of Canada in their IT department.

If you’re not in Canada, you need a bit of background. Basically, the problems RBC is experiencing is due to their outsourcing of jobs. In this case, they’re going to India. The Indian company, iGATE Corporation, who has been hired to take over the same department where Vicki worked for many years and outsource those IT jobs to India. Where RBC really stepped in it was when iGATE brought in foreign workers to be trained for these jobs by the very people they were replacing, colleagues of Ms Delany for many years. For the past two days, RBC has been back-pedaling, trying to explain what actually happened, trying to put a better shine on their actions. But the anger is still palpable right across the country, regardless of how RBC and their CEO try to spin this. Click HERE to get the full story of what’s going on here in overly polite Canada.

The crux of this particular story is not new. Outsourcing has been going on for years. Take the word itself: outsourcing. As usual, some unknown PR genius (probably a contract employee) came up with the perfect way to sugarcoat what corporations are doing: shipping out jobs to countries where workers are paid a pittance, all in an effort to bolster said corporation’s bottom line.

[Sidebar: For a long time, I’ve found it infuriating that corporations that outsource always couch it in such a way that it almost seems a mystery to them as to how it happened, as if it’s all been some unfortunate accident. “We showed up at work today, and guess what? Overnight, all the jobs in our factory were outsourced to somewhere else!” Wouldn’t it be refreshing if a corporation actually said, “We could outsource, but we don’t want to. We will provide you with the best items and the best service and hold on to our excellent and loyal employees. We’ll just have to charge a bit more than our competitors who are putting hundreds out of work in other communities, all in an attempt to get an edge in the marketplace. We hope you understand.” I would certainly line up to shop at a store selling that corporation’s widgets!]

In this present kerfuffle, RBC admits that they are shipping these jobs offshore to bolster their bottom line. What’s getting up Canadians’ noses is that this bank (like the other big Canadian financial institutions) has been racking up huge profits for years now. And it’s not as if other banks haven’t been doing the same thing (the outsourcing as well as the profits). RBC, thanks to some loud, soon-to-be ex employees, found their actions splashed all over the media. It doesn’t help that their very ham-handed spin has only poured gasoline on the fire. It’s been fun to watch them squirm.

The way I see it, this could be the start of a good thing. All across the western world, corporations have been using outsourcing as a way to solidify their positions and make ever-bigger profits. They call it “staying competitive”, and while this is part of the equation, it’s also a bit of a dodge. They are taking many long-time, loyal employees, kicking them to the curb, and giving their jobs to people who get paid ridiculously low wages, and often suffer in deplorable work conditions. In the quest for lower operating costs, everyone suffers – the employees who lose their jobs and the workers in “emerging nations” who take over the jobs. No one has really called these corporations to task for their actions – until this occasion. It is the talk of Canada, and a result has been many depositors shutting down their accounts, and judging by the scuttlebutt, they’re heading for credit unions rather than the other big banks. I would have to think that all banks and corporations are paying attention to how this story unfolds. I, for one, hope the public’s attention doesn’t drift off, as it usually seems to. It’s about time for corporate toes to be held in the fire. There’s some ’splainin’ that needs to be done.

When did it become okay for unlivable wages to be the goal for every corporation? Publishers are no different. When “advances against (future) royalties” were instituted many years ago now, they were offered so that writers could spend their time writing, instead of having to work other jobs in order to live and be forced to write in their spare time. Any writer will tell you that the job becomes far more difficult when you cannot focus all of your energies on writing. Why do you think we lock ourselves away in cold dark garrets in order to put pen to paper?

Now it seems it’s okay to offer a pittance in a royalty advance, a mere token of what is needed.
To me it seems more like a pat on the head or a prize for having your book accepted by the publisher. The whole idea of why advances were originally given has been lost. Very few of the writers you enjoy reading are able to make a reasonable living from their work, and even fewer garner the riches in which the public seems to think we all wallow. How far do they think a $1000 advance will go – especially when it’s given in three payouts over many months as the book makes its way through the publishing pipeline?

What is the same whether we’re writers, bank workers or any workers who lose their employment because of outsourcing is that we’re the bottom rung of the ladder, the most vulnerable. We are the ones paying the price for greed up at the top. In the case of writers, yes, book publishing is in transition. Traditional sources of revenue are drying up, changed by technology, and everything is uncertain as a result. But it is on the bottom, where the creators of the art toil, that the financial ax has fallen hardest.

Just for once, wouldn’t you like to see a CEO whose job is outsourced to India?

Thanks for letting me bend your ear.


John McFetridge said...


Everytime I see jobs outsourced I see fewer customers...

Rick Blechta said...

That's the insanity of this trend. Who do these companies think are going to be able to buy their products if all anyone has are Walmart-type jobs. You can't buy much of anything when all you have is a part-time, minimum wage job.

Toe Hallock said...

Rick: just once I'd like to see one of these so-called CEOs who are dismal failures not be handed $20 million bucks for a job badly executed. Then told to get lost because the board was unhappy with the company's margin. What? A profit is a profit, isn't it? Maybe they need to hire a real prophet. Impossible, of course, because the system keeps recycling the same group of geniuses who keep bailing each other out. If you need an example, I give you the shenanigans involving Bank of America and Countrywide. Both CEOs gone but living the life. They abused our trust. But this is nothing new. The good old boys have all their moves down: one hand patting the back, the other holding the sack. Yours truly, Toe.

Vicki Delany said...

I was able to put two of my former collegues in touch with the media. Amazing the power of twitter. They were interviewed. Of course they couldn't appear on TV and their names were not used. I have heard from some other RBC employees that they are getting hysterical emails from management saying of course the company would never outsource THEIR job. Lies, plain and simple. The only reason this case got any attention is that one of the employees went to the media, and was prepared to put his name and face out there. No new job for him. And the gov't is complicent in this. They created the temporary worker programme, and they are approving visas for foreign workers so incapable of doing the jobs they have to be trained by the people they're taking the jobs away from.
Incidently, the company is now saying the 45 affected workers are being found new jobs in RBC This was not the case originally. They were told they could apply for other jobs. Not the same thing.