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Carnival Outsourcing Plans 'A Hard Blow To Take'

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Matthew Culver went to work for Carnival Corporation two years ago in their IT Department.

"I love my job," he said. "I love the people I work with."

Last week he was told it was coming to an end. Culver was one of 200 employees whose positions were being eliminated.

"It was a hard blow to take," he said. "There are people that have been there over 20 years that were just in disbelief; watching the people crying and wondering what was going to happen. I mean it was really sad to see. It was very hard."

In a move that critics argue will ultimately result in scores of well-paying, white-collar jobs being shipped out of South Florida, Carnival eliminated the IT positions and offered the employees new jobs, with only six months of guaranteed employment, with a multinational French corporation that boasts being a "global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing services."

Emails and documents obtained by CBS4 News, including employment agreements the workers are being pressured to sign, detail how the employees during that six-month employment period will participate in what is described as "knowledge transfer activities."

"I mean knowledge transfer is training someone else to do your job," Culver said. "That is knowledge transfer. The outcome is our jobs are going to be lost to India. We're going to have to train foreign replacements and we'll be out of a job in six months."

In a statement to CBS4 News, Carnival noted: "The company is transitioning its shore-side IT operations, maintenance and support in North America to an outside firm, Capgemini, to help the company keep pace with the evolving technology environment. All impacted individuals will become employees of Capgemini."

The company denied the jobs would eventually be outsourced to foreign workers.

The employees work for all of Carnival's various cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise, Holland America, and Princess Cruises; and are located across the country. Nevertheless, 140 of the 200 jobs being transferred by Carnival come from Miami.

And though the plans appear to have been in the works for months, the employees have been given a fast deadline to accept the change.

"We're being asked to, not being asked, I'm sorry, we're being forced to agree or not to the terms of the Capgemini contract by December 19, six days before Christmas," Culver explained.

A copy of the Capgemini contract obtained by CBS4 News does not guarantee the workers the six months Carnival has publicly claimed. Instead the contract clearly states they are at-will employees who can be fired for any reason.

Officials for Capgemini, whose headquarters is in France and operates in 40 countries, did not respond to emails seeking their comment.

Sara Blackwell, a labor attorney who is advising the Carnival employees, said Carnival's actions were typical of what she has seen across the country. Even the terminology is almost identical.

"They say `knowledge transfer' instead of `training foreign replacements,' they say `transition' instead of `you're fired,'" Blackwell said. "That is part of the playbook of this business model which is being told to every employee at everyone one of these companies where this is happening. That's not surprising at all."

Blackwell is also the founder of a group called "Protect US Workers," which fights against these actions.

"The purpose to sending them to Capgemini is not because they care so much about these employees, it's because they need these employees to train their foreign replacements," she said. "Without these employees training their foreign replacements this can't be done, so if it's about innovation do it without using and abusing these workers."

She went on to state: "Capgemini stated to the fired Americans at a town hall meeting that Capgemini was outsourcing the work to India because that was the only way it could provide the IT services to Carnival at the rate paid to them by the company. The Carnival executives dumped oil in the ocean with the Princess Cruise line and now they are throwing away American workers for foreign slave labor.  The executives of Carnival should be ashamed and should have to face the families that they have destroyed merely days before Christmas."

Carnival denied the workers were being fired. Instead they were "transitioned" into the new company, Capgemini, said Roger Frizzell, a senior vice president and Chief Communications Officer for Carnival.

Frizzell stressed these moves were being done to improve performance and not to save money. Asked if the employees were being asked to train others how to do their jobs, Frizzell responded: "Not trained, but they will be involved in showcasing the processes related to the function in order for Capgemini to provide stronger and better service to Carnival Corporation and its brands."

He also included this statement which was also provided to employees: "Capgemini subject matter experts will be working closely with individuals to conduct operations assessments to understand how work is currently done and identify process improvements. Once knowledge transfer activities have been completed, Capgemini will look to implement new processes and procedures in order to increase standardization and efficiencies."

Will those efficiencies result in Capgemini moving those IT jobs to lower wage workers in foreign countries? Frizzell responded, "No, I am not aware of any such plans."

Blackwell said if Carnival wants to make things right, there are certain things they can do immediately.

"Please guarantee the public that the job duties of the 200 terminated Americans will be done by Americans in America," she said. "The public would be grateful for such a concession."

Culver is the first Carnival employee to speak out openly about the eventual job losses. He said he knows he is risking being fired immediately.

"I'm watching my friends, people I care about having to wrangle with these decisions," he said. "It's heartbreaking. They have families, they have kids in college, they have mortgages – they are trying to figure out what the future is going to be and they are not getting a clear picture of what that's going to be. And as bad as it may feel if I get let go or terminated or fired I think I would feel worse if I never stood up and did anything for my friends. This stuff of training your replacement, it's cruel and it's sick. Who does that?"

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