Commentary: The True Cost of Contracting Out

September 27, 2010

Rich McGee, the CSUEU Unit 9 Bargaining Unit Chairperson, is among the many union activists in our union who are worried about outsourcing. We are not talking just about the kind of outsourcing we commonly see, where work is transferred off site and in-house staff is eliminated. In addition to outsourcing of major services and the visible loss of large numbers of jobs, McGee is worried about what he calls the micro-erosion of jobs.

“The micro-erosion of jobs is where little bits of our worker’s jobs are taken away, and soon we have no jobs left,” said McGee. A good example of micro-erosion of jobs occurred at San Jose State University. Last Spring SJSU laid off about five percent of its CSUEU represented university employees, while at the same time outsourcing its e-mail services to Google.

When the e-mail system was in house CSUEU represented employees maintained the servers and protected the security of university e-mail. A common task done by CSUEU represented staff was password resets for users who lost or forgot their passwords. Many of the staff who did this were classified as Information Technology Consultants (ITCs.) These ITCs had other duties, few if any of them had resetting passwords as over 50% of their duties. None of them had campus wide ability to reset passwords. This work was distributed. Staff reset passwords only for the employees they themselves supported.

As part of the migration to Google the password reset function was taken away from long-time university employees and transferred to student assistants. These student assistants were given the ability to reset the passwords, and possibly access the e-mail accounts of every student, faculty member, counselor and staff employee at the university.

The “cost” of Google migration for CSU campuses was theoretically zero. But, the real cost as measured in training, lost productivity, weakened security and support of the Google migration has been far from free. In the SJSU example, the CSU system may be saving a few staff jobs and eliminating a few servers while incurring all the expenses listed above and concurrently sacrificing the security and integrity of university e-mail.

The true cost of contracting out state workers jobs, when you add in all factors, has cost our state dearly. SEIU Local 1000 has reported, “By our estimates, the state could save approximately $350 million annually by utilizing state workers to cut unnecessary and wasteful outsourcing in IT, medical services and architectural and engineering contracts.”

The micro-erosion of jobs is especially dangerous to us. There is language in our collective bargaining agreement offering some job protection for university workers when their jobs are eliminated due to contracting out. But, it has been harder to fight the loss of our work when the work being eliminated is spread among a pool of workers. In the SJSU example you had maybe 30 or 40 staff performing these functions as a percentage of their work. The work was contracted out, three workers in the classification that did the work were laid off and the university has argued there was no impact to CSUEU staff of the contracting out.

The micro-erosion of jobs does not even have to result in layoffs to be a threat. Attrition alone can take a toll, as jobs are not refilled as the work is taken away. Less staff paying into the retirement system threatens retirees as well as staff.

Not only does outsourcing take jobs out of the CSU system, it can take them totally out of the state and even the nation. Google has tens of thousands of oversees workers in Bangalore, Gurgaon and Hyderabad, India as well as other nations like China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. This is only one company. The CSU is outsourcing our jobs and off shoring our tax dollars.

“The state has been unwilling to collect information on private contracts and make it publicly available,” said Marie Harder, a senior information systems analyst and member of SEIU Local 1000’s Outsourcing Task Force. “We need to hold the state accountable to how much tax payer money they waste each year on outsourcing projects that could be done better and cheaper by state employees.”

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Kassing coming back

May 27, 2010

According to a reliable source former SJSU President Don Kassing is returning to SJSU to serve as the “new” interim SJSU President.


Copiers, security and SJSU

May 26, 2010
Copy Machine Security

Copy Machine Security Video

Click on image to view video.

This video, sent by a friend, (and reportedly from CBS) calls into question the security of common copy machines. Many of these types of copiers are all over campus in unsecured locations. It makes one wonder, is this is an issue we are dealing with appropriately?


Negotiations Continue Today

May 20, 2010
Michael Hejazi and Teven Laxer at a caucus

Michael Hejazi and Teven Laxer at a caucus

Click on image to enlarge

Negotiations are continuing today to try to mitigate the layoff of 73 university employees and save as many staff jobs as possible at San Jose State University. I am on the union negotiating team. It has been exhausting, heart breaking and gut wrenching to talk to employees both about the impact on them of loosing their jobs and the impact on students and faculty of their jobs not being done anymore. Not only will they suffer, the students and faculty will suffer and the state will suffer for decades as students are not served, are turned away and programs terminated that support our state’s economy. These are some of the hardest days I have ever had as a union leader. I am taking this all very seriously. I woke up with insomnia last night and we have another hard day today.

[More Photos Here]


Negotiations starting at SJSU

May 19, 2010
University Employees Marching in Rally

University Employees Marching in Rally

We are getting ready for negotiations with management over layoffs. I am on the union’s negotiation team. Before the negotiation we held a lunch time rally. We are starting bargaining now.


SJSU Color

December 4, 2009

Yellow Trees on Campus


Spartan Daily ignores safety risks

November 24, 2009

Bicycle being ridden on bench

Despite being a bicyclist and a former bike commuter I am still not convinced bicycles belong on the San Jose State University Campus. Many of the people who ride bicycles on the sidewalks at SJSU do so in ways that risk serious injury to themselves and others.

The Spartan Daily has ran stories lately showing bicyclists riding dangerously without helmets on campus. This is so unsafe California has a helmet law regarding this issue. Why has the SJSU campus newspaper not looked at the other side of the issue of bikes on campus? Why has the SJSU campus newspaper not considered the dangers posed by bicycles on campus sidewalks? Is this the Spartan Daily’s idea of fair and balanced reporting?

It is good that SJSU President Jon Whitmore rides his bike to SJSU. But it is bad, I think, that he is riding his bike on the sidewalks of campus. The risks of riding bicycles on sidewalks are well documented. Sidewalks are generally unsuitable to be used as bikeways for the following reasons:

  • Sidewalks are generally not designed for cycling speeds. Cyclists must either reduce their speed or travel too fast for conditions.
  • There is generally insufficient width for shared bicycle and pedestrian travel, particularly due to obstacles such as utility poles, signs, and street furniture that narrows the effective width of the sidewalk.
  • Bicyclists face conflicts with motor vehicles at driveways and intersections. Motorists are generally not expecting a cyclist to cross their path from the sidewalk, and may not be looking for them.
  • Traffic rules, such as obligations to yield, are unclear when cyclists ride on sidewalks, creating confusion and risk between pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.

In my opinion we are one mis-step, one inattentive moment away from a serious injury; or worse. Bikes belong on the road, not on the sidewalks of our campus.

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