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Facing layoff at Carnival, IT employee makes bold counteroffer

Facing layoff at Carnival, IT employee makes bold counteroffer

Carnival IT employees face uncertain future as Capgemini takes over

In early December, Carnival Corp. told about 200 IT employees that the company was transferring their work to Capgemini, a large IT outsourcing firm. The employees had a choice: Either agree to take a job with the contractor or leave without severance.

The employees had until this week to make a decision about their future with the cruise line.

By agreeing to a job with Paris-based Capgemini, employees are guaranteed employment for six months, said Roger Frizzell, a Carnival spokesman. "Our expectation is that many will continue to work on our account or placed into other open positions within Capgemini" that go well beyond the six-month period, he said in an email.

"We believe this is an opportunity to strengthen and improve our IT operation, but also a better long-term option for our IT employees to have employment with a top IT firm," Frizzell said.

But Frizzell was only speaking for Carnival. A Capgemini spokesperson said the firm is not at liberty to discuss the work done on behalf of its clients.

And the view among employees is sharply different. They expect to participate in a "knowledge transfer," which involves training someone else to do your job. They expect that this transfer will help move the work overseas, that they will have no guarantee of employment and that their employment will be shorter term.

One employee, Matthew Culver, a senior IT engineer at Miami-based Carnival, saw how this decision was affecting his co-workers. They were shocked, stunned and upset. He felt for them, and started to speak out, but he took a different approach.

Culver gave an interview to to the CBS news channel in Miami about Carnival's outsourcing decision. The Miami Herald, part of a newspaper chain that moved its IT work offshore, which it didn't report, published an article on Carnival's outsourcing.

The Carnival employees are talking to Sara Blackwell, a Florida attorney who is representing former Disney IT employees in their outsourcing-related layoff. She helped organize a rally for the Carnival IT workers to protest the decision.

Under its agreement with Carnival, Capgemini, an IT services and consulting company, sent an employment offer to the Carnival IT employees. Culver, in turn, responded with a counteroffer to Capgemini that reads like a protest against offshore outsourcing.

Culver's letter began by asking for a base pay of $500,000 annually.

"This is calculated based upon a figure of $100,000 (the rough, annual pay estimate for my position) times 5 (the number of years for which I would estimate that it would take to create a similar job in the U.S., once you outsource this position to a more 'cost-effective' country of your choosing)," Culver wrote.

Culver also asked for "a one-time, $100,000 donation to a charity of your choice, as long as they participate in providing services to the unemployed American workers."

The counteroffer also included a provision asking for "a personal, signed apology letter from both the CEO of Capgemini, as well as the CEO of Carnival Corporation, to each of the families who have been affected by this decision."

There was also a request in his letter that no other employees be affected by offshoring. Culver concluded: "I appreciate your time and attention to this matter, and I sincerely hope that you can fulfill these terms, so that I may begin my consideration of a happy and productive future with Capgemini!"

Capgemini declined the counteroffer, Culver said.

Carnival's decision to move IT work to a contractor "is not a cost-savings initiative," Frizzell, the cruise line's spokesman, stated.

"Our core business is cruising, and by taking this action and working with a world-class IT firm like Capgemini, will provide us with the ability to significantly strengthen our IT operation for our company and our guests," he said. He added that there is more opportunity for Carnival's IT employees at Capgemini than at the cruise line.

Capgemini employs 16,600 workers in North America, or about 9 percent of its total workforce of 180,600, according to its 2015 annual report. The company, however, gets 31 percent of its revenues from North America.

Capgemini expanded in 2015 as a result of its acquisition of iGate, a U.S.-based IT services firm with 33,000 employees, most of whom are overseas.

Severance will be provided to those who accept a job with Capgemini "but are later released" from employment, Frizzell said. The actual transfer to Capgemini is scheduled to take place in early February.

"It is important to us that we always treat our employees with dignity and respect, and our goal here is to provide a transition and smooth landing for them with this process," he said.

Employees who spoke to Computerworld said they believe that if they leave without accepting the Capgemini offer and seek unemployment benefits, Carnival will contest their benefits because they made a voluntary resignation. "There is a gun to our head to sign the contract," said one employee, who asked not be named.

Carnival was asked whether the employees' concern was accurate but there was no immediate answer.

Blackwell doesn't see how it is possible to contest unemployment benefits for these employees. An employer can't tell someone whom "you have to work for, or else you don't get the benefit of unemployment. That's not their decision," she said. Blackwell also runs an advocacy group on the H-1B issue, Protect U.S. Workers

If employees are being pressured to take jobs with a contractor, it's due to the business model, Blackwell said. "This business model requires employees to train foreign replacements for it to be successful," she said.

Culver said the decision by Carnival has put IT workers in a difficult spot.

"Right now their motivation is to make sure they have gainful employment through the holidays and make sure their benefits are protected," Culver said, "and the only way that is being offered is by signing with Capgemini."

"It's a tough situation," he said. Referring to receiving this news just before Christmas, he added, "they stunned people at a time where it has a lot of emotional psychological impact."

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