Are H-1B Visas a Cog in the Offshoring Machine?: Page 2

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Wage Disparities

Anderson and Miano disagree about the wage differential, as well, when it comes to H-1B workers and U.S. workers.

According to the data that Miano analyzed, H-1B visa workers are paid an average of $13,000 less than a comparable American worker. He points out that some companies do better, but some do worse.

For instance, Oracle, a major enterprise software company based in Redwood Shores, Calif., has one of the worst disparities, according to the 2004 figures. Calling Oracle a ''low payer'', Miano says the company pays its H-1B workers an average of $18,000 less than the median U.S. wage. Motorola Inc. pays $8,000 below the median, and Sun Microsystems Inc. pays $6,000 below the median.

Pay for H-1B visa workers at Microsoft Corp. runs about average, Miano notes. However, he calls Apple Computer Inc. a ''good payer'' -- nearly $18,000 above the median. IBM is another ''good payer'' -- about $10,000 above the median. But Miano is quick to note that doesn't extend to IBM's Indian subsidiary which handles offshoring. That part of the company pays $14,000 below the median.

''These are the numbers,'' says Miano. ''I didn't single out Oracle. I ran a query and these are the numbers that popped out.''

Oracle takes exception with the calculations.

In a written statement to Datamation, Bob Wynne, an Oracle spokesperson, said, ''The interpretation of the CIS study is grossly misleading because it is based on the wage survey data rather than actual wages paid by Oracle or any other company. The fact is, Oracle employees earn market competitive wages.''

When asked to make the wage data available to prove their point, Oracle declined, citing 'confidential employee information'.

Bob Cohen, senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America, an industry association with 325 U.S.-based corporate members, says the calculations simply can't be accurate.

''These are people with advanced degrees,'' says Cohen, who supports the move to increase the H-1B visa cap, adding that unemployment levels for IT professionals are very low. ''It seems very unlikely that they are being hired at rates that are not competitive. The way the H-1B program works is you have to pay the prevailing wage or the actual wage, whichever is higher. You're meeting prevailing or competitive wage, you're paying competitive benefits, so there are protections that are built into the program.''

Anderson, from the National Foundation for American Policy, says Miano is basing his report on the wrong numbers.

''The problem with what John did is he only looks at the prevailing wage,'' says Stuart, who wants the H-1B visa cap raised to the former cap level of 195,000, adding in exemptions for foreign workers with Masters degrees or PhDs. ''The problem is you can't claim [the prevailing wage] is what people are actually being paid.''

Miano argues that neither the government nor industry make anything other than the prevailing wage information available. Freedom of Information Act claims have been filed against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to get that data, he says. So far, nothing has been disclosed.

''This is what employers are submitting to the government,'' he adds. ''The government puts lists out and we're just summarizing what they're reporting.''

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