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Disney replaces 250 staff with Indian H1-B workers

MUMBAI: Entertainment giant Walt Disney has in a surprising move laid off 250 employees, replacing them with Indians holding H1-B visas.

Some of those employees were required to train their foreign replacements to do the jobs they lost.

Reports state that many of the jobs were transferred to immigrants on temporary visas for highly skilled technical workers brought in by an outsourcing firm in India.

Disney executives said the reorganisation that led to the layoffs was meant to allow technology operations to focus on producing more innovations.

They added that the layoffs were part of a reorganisation, and that the company opened more positions than it eliminated.

Some of the former employees told various news organisations that many of the immigrants were younger technicians with limited data skills who did not speak English fluently and had to be instructed in the basics of the work.

The temporary visas, known as H-1B, are used to place immigrants in technology jobs in the United States and are at the centre of a debate in Congress over whether they complement or displace American workers.

The New York Times published excerpts from a contract that the laid off workers had to sign. According to the contract, laid off workers would receive a lump sum payment equal to 10 per cent of their base salary contingent on the ‘continued satisfactory performance of your job duties’. This included training their replacements to do their job well.

According to federal guidelines, the visas are intended for foreigners with advanced science or computer skills to fill discrete positions when American workers with those skills cannot be found. Their use, the guidelines say, should not ‘adversely affect the wages and working conditions’ of Americans. Because of legal loopholes, however, in practice companies do not have to recruit American workers first or guarantee that Americans will not be displaced.