Disney has canceled recent plans to replace employees in 30 technology positions with workers from an agency known for outsourcing jobs to immigrants on temporary work visas.
Employees of Disney/ABC Television in New York and Burbank first heard of the layoffs in late May. In recent weeks, before the company reversed course, some of the employees were asked to help train their successors, mostly via teleconference but also in person in some cases.
Disney had planned to post nearly a dozen new jobs in the wake of the layoffs. The company offered few details on its reasoning for the decision.
“In the course of making any technology upgrade, we look at a myriad of options to achieve our goals,” said Disney/ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman. “We’re clearly on an alternative path to achieve those goals that we think is better suited to our business.”
The replacement workers initially tapped for the Disney positions were from Cognizant Technology Solutions, a New Jersey information technology services firm that draws heavily from India to fill its employee pool. Cognizant did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Although it’s unclear how many of the Cognizant workers were U.S. citizens or Indian nationals, the employment reshuffle has sparked more debate about the U.S. government’s controversial H-1B visa program.
Only 85,000 H-1B visas — designed so foreigners with specialty skills can fill job vacancies left by a domestic skills gap — are granted each year. But critics complain that U.S. employers exploit loopholes in the system to hire cheaper labor from abroad at the expense of American workers.
The Disney/ABC flip-flop was first reported by the Computerworld website, but it’s not the only time Disney’s employment of immigrant workers has come under scrutiny.