“Outsourcing” – which has become synonymous with sending American jobs to India or China – could soon mean foreign workers sleeping in ships just a few miles off America’s coasts.
In an outrageous affront to U.S. labor laws, a California company plans to anchor a 600-cabin cruise ship just beyond the three-mile limit off the coast of El Segundo, near Los Angeles, and stock it with foreign software programmers.
The company, SeaCode, will seek to classify the workers as “seamen,” avoiding U.S. payroll taxes and the need for immigration visas.
Programmers from places like India and Russia would work 8-hour or 10-hour shifts, either day or night. Take-home pay: About $21,500 a year.
Compare that to the salary of an American programmer – median salary for programmers is around $60,000, and those with extensive experience can make $125,000 or more – and U.S. companies like SeaCode could reap a windfall.
SeaCode says it will charge clients the same rate as firms in developing countries. The company says the significant benefit of having the low-cost programmers near the U.S. is that clients will be spared from long flights to India and other far-off destinations to check on projects.
By using foreigners working on boats, SeaCode also believes projects will get done more quickly as their programmers toil both day and night. “Try to get American software engineers to work at night,” SeaCode co-founder David Cook told Forbes magazine, explaining his delight in the outsourcing scheme.
But Jack Martin, special projects director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, complained: “All it would do is be a further contribution to eroding the job opportunities for skilled American workers.”
SeaCode is close to making an offer for the Carousel, a ship now sailing around the Canary Islands. The vessel would dock in Long Beach once a month to take on supplies and dispose of waste – isn’t that nice? But legally speaking, the SeaCode scheme could face stormy seas.
“It’s not my prerogative to tell them to take a hike,” said El Segundo Mayor Kelly McDowell. “I’ll leave that to the Coast Guard.”