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IT pay parity claim

Mumbai, June 4: One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Young American software programmer Kevin Flanagan’s recent suicide stirred emotions and much indignation in the US, but closer home, three leading Indian software companies say they pay the same compensation to H-1B and L-1 visa-holders.

Flanagan, an American software programmer replaced by the very trainee he showed the ropes at the Bank of America, went out into the parking lot recently and shot himself dead.

His suicide lends credence to the argument of people like Republican senator John L. Mica that US companies are replacing Americans with cheaper foreign workers. Flanagan’s case also gives the lie to the argument that most Americans lack software skills as it was he who had trained the foreign worker. It also disproves the assertion of US companies that Americans are losing out since jobs are being cut, for foreigners are still being hired.

Infosys Technologies, one of the three Indian software majors using L-1 visas to get workers into the US, says it has about 4,090 employees with H-1B visas and around 1,760 with L-1 visas.

Wipro Technologies says 23 per cent of its 13,474-strong workforce was overseas for the full year. “People on H-1B visas comprise around 45 per cent of the workforce and those on L-1 visas the remaining 55 per cent,” a Wipro spokesperson said.

“We believe it will be quite some time before the proposed Bill (preventing companies from hiring foreigners with L-1 visas) goes through various processes,” the spokesperson said.

For companies like Wipro, the US is a big market, giving them 288 active customers. Almost 63 per cent of its revenue comes from the US alone. But Azim Premji’s company said its compensation was the same for H-1B or L-1 visa holders.

L-1 visas are popular as there are no limits on how many can be issued and workers on such visas can be paid lower than H-1B visa holders. H-1B visas clearly specify the same salary structure for US and foreign workers for the same job.

Infosys would not comment on the controversy even though it disclosed how many employees it had under each category. Tata Consultancy Services refused to speak at all.

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