Back in February, 45 employees at Royal Bank’s investor services office in Toronto were informed that they were being laid off. Their primary responsibility, processing various investment transactions, was going to be done from now on by foreign temporary workers, who would then relocate back to India after their 2 year work visas expired. And of course, the people losing their jobs were pissed. From a CBC article:

“They are being brought in from India, and I am wondering how they got work visas,” said Dave Moreau… “The new people are in our offices and we are training them to do our jobs. That adds insult to injury.”

“I am going to be broke,” he said. “I don’t have enough money to live on. I have some RSPs. I have very little in the pension plan at RBC … I have a wife that works part time at a very low wage.”

“It’s horrible to be in this situation,” the employee said. “The bank is doing this while making billions of dollars in record profits and they don’t think about the impact on us. We are like fleas on an elephant.”

Geez, unnamed employee, maybe they’re making record profits because they’re cutting overpriced jobs like yours? Not that we should encourage that per se, but it definitely helps profits.

So this story comes out, and people are pissed. People all over the place threatened to switch their accounts from RBC. They littered comment sections with their indignation. And, because that’s what she does, Gail Vaz Oxlade decided to make this a crusade, even though Vaz Oxlade is a landed immigrant, and one could make the argument that perhaps there’s irony in her position. But I digress.

Anyway, who cares about this Royal Bank stuff? Companies do this stuff all the time. How often do you call into a call centre and get someone whose first language definitely isn’t English? Maybe I just have bad luck, but it happens at least half the time. That doesn’t mean these people aren’t competent, most of the time they manage to solve my problems. Hell, by far the most useless company is Telus, and their reps have their asses planted firmly in Canada.

This brings us to the bigger issue. At what point does foreign outsourcing go too far?

Personally, I couldn’t give two craps about the whole thing. If I’m a shareholder in a company (I’m not a shareholder in RBC, but am in their competitor, Bank of Montreal) I want them to make profits for me. I don’t care how it happens, I just want results. That’s why shareholders hire management to run the company, to make them money. As long as the company isn’t doing anything illegal, it’s all good.

Meanwhile, you have people with a different attitude. They think that a company should perhaps take a little less in profits, so they can redirect those profits to doing things that are more socially responsible. Maybe they should employ as many Canadians as possible, at decent wages, in an attempt to further stimulate the economy. Or maybe they should donate some of those potential profits to charity, because whales need love too, preferably from other whales. No, that’s not what the blowhole is for.

Of course, outsourcing stuff offshore has been happening for years. When was the last time you bought a piece of clothing that was made somewhere that wasn’t in a developing Asian country? When was the last time you bought an electronic that wasn’t made in China? We’ve outsourced manufacturing of just about everything to parts of the world that pay their employees pennies on the dollar compared to minimum wage in North America.

It’s the same thing with IT jobs, customer service jobs, data entering, and probably a few more things I’m forgetting. We outsourced a big chunk of these jobs to India starting like 20 years ago. This has been a threat to IT workers for almost a generation now, and finally people are getting outraged about it? That’s what I mostly don’t get about this. It’s like getting up on your soapbox and decrying the dangers of communism, without apparently realizing that communism pretty much went away with the Soviet Union.

Where is the line when it comes to outsourcing? Should we discourage it, protect our borders, and deal with other countries as little as possible? Or should we open up even more, perhaps taking steps to make doing business in other countries easier, like adopting a common currency, or making it easier to travel from country to country?

Anybody want to weigh in? The comment section is all yours.

[Update: RBC has a slightly different version of the story. Still, who cares? Let’s focus on the issue of outsourcing, and not on RBC.]

Tell everyone, yo!