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Charlotte Observer poll results show workers have lost jobs to visa workers

More than half of respondents in a Charlotte Observer poll said they have been laid off and replaced with a worker on an H-1B visa.
More than half of respondents in a Charlotte Observer poll said they have been laid off and replaced with a worker on an H-1B visa. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

More than half of respondents in a Charlotte Observer poll said they have been laid off and replaced with a worker on an H-1B visa.

Results are based on responses from about 70 people to the unscientific online survey about the federal program, which allows employers to bring highly skilled workers to the U.S. temporarily.

The Observer reported recently that companies in Charlotte are stepping up efforts to hire the visa workers, who critics say are sometimes used to replace Americans. Last year, employers filed initial applications for more than 16,500 H-1B workers in the Charlotte metro area, up 39 percent from the year before.

Poll results show that among those who were laid off, slightly more than half said they were in the banking industry, a major employer in Charlotte. Respondents were also given choices of energy, government, manufacturing, retail and other.

Most job losses to visa workers occurred in the information technology field. Nearly 90 percent said they were working in IT at the time of their layoffs.

Most people laid off also said they had to train the visa worker who replaced them. Results show a little more than half provided such training.

In some cases, employers who hire visa workers bring them directly on to their staff. In other cases, employers replace roles held by laid-off employees with outsourcing firms that use visa workers. About 68 percent of respondents said their position was outsourced to such firms.

Of the top 10 visa applicants in Charlotte, nine were outsourcing firms. The exception was Bank of America.

Nationwide, the H-1B program is becoming a political flashpoint, as critics say some companies use the visas to replace Americans with cheaper foreign labor.

Supporters argue the visas are a vital tool for filling jobs, particularly in technology, for which there is a shortage of skilled talent in the U.S.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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