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Submission + - Sen. Blumenthal demands lifting of IT 'gag' order (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the layoff and replacement of IT workers by foreign workers at a state energy utility. But he is also demanding that the utility, Eversource Energy, drop a particularly restrictive non-disparagement clause that laid off employees had to sign to receive their severance. This clause bars discussion "that would tend to disparage or discredit" the utility. [emphasis added] He wants the employees, who had to train foreign replacements, to be able to state "honestly what happened to them."

Submission + - Photo shows how utility IT workers protested layoff (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: The utility, now known as Eversource Energy and based in Connecticut and Massachusetts, laid off approximately 200 IT employees in 2014 after contracting with two India-based offshore outsourcing firms. Some of the utility's IT employees had to train their foreign replacements. Failure to do so meant loss of severance. But an idea emerged to show workers' disdain for what was happening: Small American flags were placed in cubicles and along the hallway in silent protest — flags that disappeared as the workers were terminated.

Submission + - Disney IT workers allege conspiracy in layoffs, file lawsuits (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: Disney IT workers laid off a year ago this month are now accusing the company and the outsourcing firms it hired of engaging in a "conspiracy to displace U.S. workers." The allegations are part of two lawsuits filed in federal court in Florida on Monday. Between 200 and 300 Disney IT workers were laid off in January 2015. Some of the workers had to train their foreign replacements — workers on H-1B visas — as a condition of severance. The lawsuits represent what may be a new approach in the attack on the use of H-1B workers to replace U.S. workers. They allege violations of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), claiming that the nature of the employment of the H-1B workers was misrepresented, and that Disney and the contractors knew the ultimate intent was to replace U.S. workers with lower paid H-1B workers.

Submission + - MIT to offer Internet of Things training for professionals (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: MIT is offering an online course about the Internet of Things, and this is what you need to know up front: It's going to require, perhaps, six to eight hours of study time a week, which includes watching videos of lectures, engaging with faculty and fellow students in forums and taking tests. It begins April 12 and continues through May 24. It costs $495, and unlike some online courses, there is no free option. Students who complete the program and pass the tests earn a certificate of completion and 1.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in MIT's professional education program. In exchange for their time and money, students will get an introduction, a roadmap, into the IoT and hear from some of the university's top professors, including Tim Berners-Lee, the founder of the World Wide Web. This professional program is a relatively new effort for the university.

Submission + - IBM union calls it quits (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: A 16-year effort by the Communication Workers of America to organize IBM employees into a union is ending. The union's local, the Alliance@IBM, is suspending "organizing" efforts, and says its membership has been worn down by IBM's ongoing decline of its U.S. work force as it grows overseas. The union never got many dues-paying members, but its Website, a source of reports from employees on layoffs, benefit changes and restructuring, was popular with employees, a source of information for the news media, and a continuing thorn in the side of IBM.

Submission + - U.S. expects drop in programming jobs, but gains in IT jobs overall (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says IT jobs will grow an overall 12% in the next decade, except for programmers. That occupation will shrink as more work is shifted to lower wage countries, according to the government. There were 328,600 computer programmers in 2014, but over the next 10 years this number is expected to decline by 8% or 26,500 jobs, the BLS said in its biennial update of its Occupational Outlook Handbook released Friday. Software developers, the largest occupational group in IT, which employs 1.11 million, will increase by 17% or 186,600, over this period. This data may become fodder in the debate over H-1B visas. The U.S., according to the National Science Foundation, awarded about 48,000 computer science bachelor degrees in 2012, which is roughly equal to the number of jobs per year that all computer occupations will grow by.

Submission + - Software-Defined Vehicles Will Dominate at CES (computerworld.com)

Lucas123 writes: Carmakers and their tier 1 parts suppliers at this year's CES in January are expected launch an unprecedented number of software advances centered around cloud services and over-the-air updates as the number of in-vehicle processors grow and consumers have come to expect their car to mimic smartphone functionality. As hardware becomes more of a commodity, increasingly cars will be defined by software. There will be about 464 automotive electronics exhibitors at this year's CES — a record number, according to IHS Automotive. Machine-human interface (HMI) will be a core technology at the show and augmented reality and virtual reality in the form of gesture recognition and heads up displays is expected to be among the most cutting-edge features on display. Cloud-based speech recognition technology that uses machine learning skills to identify speech patterns more quickly will also be more commonplace. One development the analysts said they're "crossing their fingers" to see at the show is Modular Infotainment Platforms, which allow carmakers to offer the latest electronic systems prior to a model launch. Today, car models are often launched with years-old electronics. Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto are also increasingly undermining the native [IVI] system makers business. Analyst believe all carmakers will eventually offer both APIs in future car models.

Submission + - U.S. predicts zero job growth for electrical engineers (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: An occupation long associated with innovation, electrical and electronics engineering, has stopped growing, according to the U.S. government. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in an update of its occupational outlook released Friday, said that the number of people employed as electrical and electronics engineers is now at 316,000, and will remain mostly unchanged for the next decade. The government put the 10-year job outlook for electronic and electrical engineers at “0% — little or no change.” The IEEE-USA said the BLS estimates “are probably correct.”

Submission + - Sen. Ted Cruz wants minimum H-1B wage of $110,000 (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, has morphed from a vocal supporter of the H-1B program to a leading critic of it. He has done so in a new H-1B reform bill that sets a minimum wage of $110,000 for H-1B workers. By raising the cost of temporary visa workers, Cruz is hoping to discourage their use. Cruz also wants to eliminate Optional Practical Training Program (OPT). The co-sponsor of this bill, The American Jobs First Act of 2015, is U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who called the OPT program "a backdoor method for replacing American workers."

Submission + - How this group of IT workers learned about their layoff (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: The IT workers at Cengage Learning in the company's Mason, Ohio offices learned of their fates game-show style. First, they were told to gather in a large conference room. There were vague remarks from an IT executive about a "transition." Slides were shown that listed employee names, directing them to one of three rooms where they would be told specifically what was happening to them. Some employees were cold with worry. The biggest group, those getting pink slips, were told to remain in the large conference room. Workers directed to go through what we'll call Door No. 2, were offered employment with IT offshore outsourcing firm Cognizant. That was the smallest group. And those sent through Door No. 3 remained employed in Cengage's IT department. This happened in mid-October. "I was so furious," said one of the IT workers over what happened. It seemed "surreal," said another. The workers are now helping the company shift their work to India.

Submission + - In turnabout, SunTrust removes contentious severance clause (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: A controversial severance clause by SunTrust Banks requiring laid-off employees to be available to help without pay for two years, has been removed, the bank said today. The severance agreements received by employees included a "continuing cooperation" clause requiring each worker "to make myself reasonably available to SunTrust regarding matters in which I have been involved in the course my employment with SunTrust and/or about which I have knowledge as a result of my employment with SunTrust." Bank IT employees believed this broadly worded clause was essentially an on-call provision, requiring them to provide technical help as needed without additional pay. The bank disputed that interpretation, and said the intent was to limit such help to legal matters. The bank, in a statement released late Friday morning, had a change of heart, and said it would be removed from the severances.

Submission + - Bank's severance deal requires IT workers to be on call for two years (computerworld.com) 3

dcblogs writes: SunTrust Banks in Atlanta is laying off about 100 IT workers as it moves work offshore. But this layoff is unusual for what it is asking of the soon-to-be displaced workers: The bank's severance agreement requires terminated employees to remain available for two years to provide help if needed, including in-person assistance, and to do so without compensation. Many of the affected IT employees, who are now training their replacements, have years of experience and provide the highest levels of technical support. The proof of their ability may be in the severance requirement, which gives the bank a way to tap their expertise long after their departure. The bank's severance includes a "continuing cooperation" clause for a period of two years, where the employee agrees to "make myself reasonably available" to SunTrust "regarding matters in which I have been involved in the course of my employment with SunTrust and/or about which I have knowledge as a result of my employment at SunTrust."

Submission + - Replacement of writers leads Gartner's predictions (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: Gartner's near-future predictions include: Writers will be replaced. By 2018, 20% of all business content, one in five of the documents you read, will be authored by a machine. By 2018, 2 million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment. This may seem Orwellian, but certain jobs require people to be fit, such as public safety workers. By 2020, smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions. This is based on the belief that the world is moving to a post-app era, where assistants such as Apple's Siri act as a type of universal interface.

Submission + - Machines will learn just like a child, says IBM CEO (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: Technology is shifting to intelligent machines with a capability to reason, said IBM Chairman and CEO Virginia Rometty. These machines won't replace humans, but will augment them. It is a technology that will transform business, she said. Rometty, interviewed Tuesday by Gartner analysts at the research firm's Symposium ITxpo, said cognitive systems understand not only data, but unstructured data, which includes images, songs, video, and then goes a step further: "They reason and they learn." The method of learning is not unlike a child's, she said.

Submission + - Congress set to make the H-1B visa less costly for India (computerworld.com)

dcblogs writes: Congress is set to drop a $2,000 H-1B visa fee mostly paid by India-based IT services providers. It only applies to firms with at least 50% of their employees on visas, and many of those firms are based in India. The fee expires on Oct. 1 and raises between $70 and $80 million annually for the U.S. The IEEE-USA believes it's a bad move. "We had half of Congress tripping over itself trying to get in front of the camera to tell the American public how upset they were about SCE (Southern California Edison), Walt Disney and all the other companies that have used this visa to eliminate American jobs," said Harrison. Now, "the only thing Congress is going to manage to do is to make (the H-1B visa) cheaper."

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