Article 43


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Rising Of The Telecom Underclass

The increased globalization and outsourcing of service, manufacturing, and IT jobs to cheap labor, has gotten lots of press, but even with all the TELECOM MERGERS and layoffs going on, the developing underclass of folks in our industry doesn’t get much attention. 

I used to think LOU DOBBS on CNN was an alarmist, scaring us with his talk about the perils of corporate greed, trade imbalance with Communist China, illegal immigrants working for slave wages, computer programmer jobs outsourced to poverty ridden India, etc - but don’t anymore. Last year the OUTSOURCING OF AMERICA hit my middle-class home.

After searching since last August, and not finding a job through the usual means (networking, friends, job fairs, internet, word of mouth, newspaper ads, etc) a staffing agency placed me as an outsourced contractor to another telco - Sprint (after getting layed off from AT&T with 20+ years) - at half the pay, with no permanency, no benefits, and little hope of being hired. I didn’t see this job advertised on Sprint’s internet careers page, which I look at just about every day.

What’s more alarming is a surprising number of people I work with are middle-aged temporary contracted workers, with similar experiences and backgrounds as mine - layed off from one telco, to find a temp job with another - through a subcontractor - at a fraction of the pay. One guy I work with has been here for two years doing the same job as the regular full-time employee sitting next to him, hoping to someday get hired. While Sprint continues it’s internal POLICIES OF HIRING young college graduates, and career advancement for it’s regular employees - including transferring people into and out of our department - he hasn’t been offered the job (or any job) - even after two years satisfactorily doing it.  None of the contracted temps I work with have been offered any opportunities to be hired on as regular employees.  To some of us it smells like AGE BIAS. To most of us it reeks like EXPLOITATION OF LABOR.

The trend of HIRING AMERICANS THROUGH STAFFING AGENCIES and subcontractors at low wages, with little if any benefits or opportunity - combined with outsourcing to other venues of cheap labor - may continue and accelerate. If true, this may be a signal that the END OF DECENT PAYING JOBS IN TELECOM is well underway.

Feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness are not unlikely for middle-aged, middle-class displaced telecom techies already dealing with the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF.  Increased worry and stress may also be emotionally challenging.  For instance - due to the HIGH COST OF HEALTH CARE in the US - a growing fear of mine is GOING BANKRUPT from landing in the hospital or getting ill without DISABILITY INSURANCE. (Here’s one chilling REPORT.) I don’t have paid sick leave and can’t afford to continue paying for medical coverage like COBRA or INDIVIDUAL MEDICAL INSURANCE. Living with these pressures probably takes a heavy toll on one’s mental and emotional being, creating favorable conditions for debilitating depression, or stress induced illness.

Rising of the Telecom Underclass
PART 1 · PART 2 · PART 3 · PART 4 · PART 5 · PART 6

Posted by Elvis on 03/19/05 •
Section Telecom Underclass
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