July 14, 2010
By Phil Kabler, Staff writer
The Charleston Gazette
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- About 75 state Office of Technology employees rallied outside of their Capitol Complex offices Wednesday evening to protest state plans to outsource information technology operations.
The move could not only eliminate their jobs, but also could jeopardize the privacy of West Virginians' personal data, speakers warned.
"Do you want your tax data, your driver's license information, your health information being made available to people in other states, or possibly overseas?" asked Carolyn Saul, a systems programmer.
Speakers also noted that attempts in Texas, Virginia and Indiana to outsource state IT operations to private companies have been plagued with massive cost overruns and numerous operating errors, system outages, and glitches.
"Privatization has not been a panacea, but rather a way to plunder public wealth," said Pam Schwarz, president of West Virginia Public Workers Union UE Local 170, which organized the rally.
Last month, state Chief Technology Officer Kyle Schafer told legislators that discussions of outsourcing state data centers and other information technology operations is strictly in the preliminary stages.
He did confirm that IBM is reviewing all of the state's data centers and IT applications, but said the company volunteered to do so after the state opened discussions with the company about replacing the state's computer mainframe, which is an IBM product.
Participants in the rally were urged to join UE 170 officials on Tuesday to lobby legislators to oppose any efforts to outsource state IT operations.
Legislators will be at the Capitol Tuesday for regularly scheduled July legislative interim meetings, as well as for an expected special session dealing with public school reforms.
"I believe in the principle of, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,'" Saul said. "IBM and the other outsourcing companies are in this business to make a profit, and they will either do it by having the work done cheaper offshore or by making the West Virginia taxpayers foot the bill."