Viterra outsourcing IT work: GSU

Delivery of information technology (IT) services at Canada’s largest grain handler will done by IT-outsourcing firms based in India and Texas starting next year, according to its office staff’s union.

The Grain Services Union, which represents workers at Viterra’s Regina head office and Saskatchewan grain elevators, said Thursday it had been given notice that the IT outsourcing would mean estimated cuts of 45 to 50 jobs.

Of those jobs, 30 positions at Viterra’s head office in Regina are expected to be eliminated by Dec. 30 this year, with “another estimated 16 jobs” cut by the following August, GSU general secretary Hugh Wagner said in a release.

Viterra didn’t issue a formal statement on the outsourcing, but CBC on Thursday quoted Mike Brooks, Viterra’s chief information officer, as saying the jobs in question “can be done on site, or they can be done remotely.

“Either way, it doesn’t matter,” Brooks was quoted by CBC as saying. “What’s important to understand is we’re not changing jobs. Viterra is buying services.”

Viterra’s affected IT work will thus be handled by two firms: Infosys Technologies, a company headquartered in Bangalore, India with Canadian offices in Toronto and Calgary; and EDS, a Texas-based IT outsourcing firm which has offices in nine Canadian cities and is owned by Hewlett-Packard.

Brooks was also quoted Thursday by the Regina Leader-Post newspaper as saying both IT firms will have personnel working in Regina. The paper said Brooks didn’t rule out the possibility of the work being done elsewhere.

“In addition, Viterra is unilaterally moving the work of 10 or so union members’ jobs to identified by the company as newly created management positions,” Wagner said, noting that move “will certainly be contested” by the GSU.

“Three months ago when Viterra announced it was undertaking an information technology review, the union asked for an opportunity to make a business case for alternatives to outsourcing,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the union’s offer was declined and it is evident that Viterra was predisposed towards outsourcing despite the ongoing contributions employees have made to Viterra’s success.”

The GSU called an information meeting with its Viterra head office bargaining unit for Thursday afternoon to discuss the company’s plans.

Referring to the company which took over Agricore United in 2007 to form Viterra, Wagner said, “Maybe it is only me, but I don’t think this kind of development is what the founders of Saskatchewan Wheat Pool had in mind when they and so many working people sacrificed to build their own co-operative alternative to corporate dominance 85 years ago.”

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