Most of the focus on ‘saving’ airline jobs has been on union jobs like pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants. But airlines are downsizing non-union roles, too. They can’t legally terminate even non-union employees until October 1 because they took CARES Act payroll grants, but they’ve told people who will lose their job as soon as the restriction ends and they’ve gotten people to leave ‘voluntarily’ by offering them a slightly better deal to exit early.
United Airlines even forced non-union employees to take unpaid vacation because their lawyers figured out that didn’t run afoul of technical restrictions in the CARES Act: they could not reduce rates of pay, but the law didn’t prevent them from reducing the amount of work they’re paid for.
Like American, United set a goal of reducing management head count by 30%.
Yet as reported by Jon NYC, United Airlines is actually hiring – just in Gurgaon, India. And they aren’t offshoring the way you normally expect, looking for cheap coders or call center employees. They’re hiring for more analytical, and traditionally white collar, positions. This includes Senior Analyst, Manager, and Senior Manager roles including:
- Senior Analyst – Network Planning
- Senior Analyst – Revenue Strategy
- Senior Manager – Sales Programs
- Manager – Revenue Strategy
If you dig into the specific positions, United Airlines is clear – they will not consider a transfer of U.S. employees to India even if people are willing to do it.
This position is offered on local terms and conditions. Expatriate assignments and sponsorship for employment visas, even on a time-limited visa status, will not be awarded.
The move to shift management jobs to India at lower salaries is awkward after taking $4,958,498,096 in payroll support funds in order to ‘save U.S. jobs’ and lobbying for another $5 billion (“clean extension of the CARES Act”). However that’s not what I’m most interested in here. It’s something far more fundamental and ambitious than that.
- United’s hiring of network planning and revenue strategy executives in India is, of course, great news for talent in India. And their lives count, too.
- If this works it’s also great news for U.S. firms, despite the best efforts of politicians talent is increasingly globalized. Wages will go up in India, investment returns go up in the United States.
- By keeping United Airlines afloat and competitive that will support jobs in the United States in maintenance, supply, and tourism. (My understanding of the literature is that the overall effect of offshoring on U.S. wages is mixed.)
What’s fascinating here is that United is offshoring managerial-type tasks, not just lower-skill tasks whether call centers or basic coding. That’s an experiment we may be able to learn a lot from – but isn’t guaranteed to work. It’s also a far cry from where the airline was just in March, reluctant to support remote work.
It comes at an especially uncomfortable time though, when they’re asking U.S. taxpayers to subsidize jobs they have no intention of keeping in the United States.