A Unum employee and a pro-U.S. labor website say the insurance company is considering outsourcing hundreds of information technology jobs. The employee said more than 200 IT workers in the Portland office could be affected.
The website, protectusworkers.org, said Unum is on the verge of outsourcing hundreds of jobs and has been talking to vendors, including two outsourcing firms with large operations in India.
An employee within the company’s IT department, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared repercussions from the company, also told the Portland Press Herald that Unum is in talks with vendors, and said it may announce layoffs as early as this summer. The information about possible outsourcing was conveyed internally within the company’s IT department this spring, the employee said.
The Chattanooga, Tennessee-based disability insurance provider, which employs about 3,000 workers in Maine, acknowledged that it is talking to potential “partners,” but said it would not respond to claims that the number of affected jobs is in the hundreds.
“These are based on speculation and hearsay and there isn’t anything to confirm or deny because of that,” Unum spokeswoman M.C. Guenther said Thursday via email.
Protectusworkers.org is administered by Florida attorney Sara Blackwell. It encourages employees of U.S. companies to submit comments about their employer’s activities to preserve or eliminate American jobs.
Blackwell’s post about Unum states, “Unum disability health insurance is about to outsource hundreds of tech jobs and they are choosing their contracting company now. No contract has been signed. They are meeting with Cognizant and HCL – two of the worst (India-based) contracting companies that will send the work overseas. We have to stop it before the contract is signed. We must keep the jobs in America.”
The post by Blackwell urges members of the public to email Unum Chief Information Officer Kate Miller (whom Blackwell misidentifies as the company’s CEO) and demand that the jobs not be outsourced to a foreign company.
“They need to know that America cares and that America wants the contract to be with an American company,” Blackwell wrote. “Now is the time for Americans to stand up and do something.”
Blackwell did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
350 JOBS COULD BE AFFECTED
The Unum employee, whom the Press Herald confirmed works for the IT department, has sent several updates to the newspaper regarding Unum’s progress toward outsourcing IT jobs. The employee estimated that at least 350 jobs, including more than 200 in the Portland office could be affected, with the employees being notified in July or August. The jobs pay in the $60,000-$80,000 range.
“They met this week with five external vendors, presenting on differing levels of possible sourcing,” the employee wrote in a May email. “First week of June they will have (a) finalist selected and then determine what processes are sourced out. Some vendors noted they would most likely retain the Unum staff, others stated they would provide the staffing, and some possibly a mix.”
In a follow-up email Thursday, the IT employee said workers have been notified that the list of potential outsourcing firms had been narrowed down, and that no more information was expected until late summer.
Guenther, Unum’s spokeswoman, would not confirm or deny the specifics of the claims by Blackwell and the Unum employee, but she did say that the company is constantly looking for ways to improve its operations through partnerships.
“Presently, we are considering partnerships both within the U.S. and beyond it. We’re a multinational company with a strong international workforce and partnerships that reflect that diversity,” she said. “As part of this process, we are constantly evaluating the best ways to achieve the right balance of internal and external support. This assures we have both the right expertise in-house and the flexibility we need through partners to adjust quickly to changing business needs.”
Portland city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said city officials had not heard anything about the possible layoffs.
Nor has a notice of mass layoffs been filed with the state Department of Labor. Under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, companies with at least 100 employees are required to give at least 60 days’ notice of a plant closing or mass layoff. As of Thursday, there had been no WARN Act notices filed with the state since a Caribou call center announced layoffs in late May.
OUTSOURCING ‘NOT NEW TO UNUM’
When asked in May about the anonymous tip that the company was looking to outsource jobs, Guenther indicated that outsourcing has been part of Unum’s business practices for a long time.
“Although we aren’t to the point where we have specific plans for new partnerships today, we have been clear that we will continue to look to partnerships that support the long-term growth and efficiency of the business,” Guenther wrote. “Working with external partners is not new to Unum. The reality is we’ve been taking this approach for many years.”
The company had previously outsourced IT work for 10 years, but decided to bring that work back in-house, according to an interview with Ron Tustin, director of mainframe infrastructure at Unum, that was published in Enterprise Executive in March 2013. The work – mainframe engineering, operations and production control functions – was brought back to improve customer service, serve changing business needs and optimize mainframe resources, the article said.