Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin urged a Chicago-based company to cancel layoffs after hearing about a plan to replace American workers with foreign workers in a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting.
(TNS) -- Corporate layoffs are so routine that they usually don't attract much attention among lawmakers in Washington, D.C. But Abbott Laboratories' recent move to outsource some information technology jobs has come under scrutiny from Sen. Dick Durbin.
The Illinois Democrat is upset about reports that the health care company, based in north suburban Abbott Park, is replacing American workers with foreign workers. In a letter to CEO Miles White released Monday, the senator urged Abbott to cancel the layoffs.
"It should go without saying that such harsh and insensitive conduct is not justified by whatever marginal financial benefit might accrue to your company, which is already making billions of dollars in profits every year," Durbin wrote.
Abbott spokesman Scott Stoffel declined to comment on Durbin's criticism.
The company hasn't publicly disclosed any layoffs in recent weeks. Durbin heard about the planned dismissals during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week on the impact of temporary visa programs, including H-1B's, used to bring immigrants, mainly from India, for technology work.
The senator's staff then spoke with some Abbott workers who confirmed the layoffs, according to Durbin's letter.
Durbin's letter said 180 Abbott employees were given 60 days' notice and told their last day will be April 22. People who lost their jobs also were told they would have to train their replacements, adding insult to injury, the letter said.
Abbott awarded an outsourcing contract to Wipro, a large India-based IT services firm, according to Durbin. After they are trained, the foreign workers will do these jobs outside the United States, his letter said.
Stoffel would only confirm that the company "recently outsourced some IT capabilities." He declined to confirm any details of the layoffs that Durbin disclosed.
"We're retaining the vast majority of our U.S.-based IT jobs," Stoffel said in a statement.
Durbin has been a big critic of the H-1B visas, which were intended to fill labor gaps in highly specialized areas that couldn't be filled by Americans. Instead, Durbin argues, the guest worker program has been exploited by U.S. companies to save labor costs. Media have recently reported on a number of companies, including Disney, Hertz and Toys R Us, that have fired American workers and replaced them with immigrants from an outsourcing company.
The news reports have spurred calls to reform the visa program to protect American workers.
Durbin said in his letter to Abbott's CEO that "gaps in current law are no excuse for your company to treat your employees so unfairly."
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