Trump orders limits on US contractors’ use of foreign workers

Bloomberg August 4 | Updated on August 04, 2020 Published on August 04, 2020

Covid-led recession has thrown millions of Americans out of work

President Donald Trump on Monday barred federal agencies from dismissing US citizens or green card holders and replacing them with foreign workers, and blasted a major state enterprise for having done so.

The executive order Trump signed on Monday increases scrutiny of federal contractors’ use of H-1B visas to bring in temporary foreign labour for high-skilled jobs rather than relying on American workers.

The action was prompted by the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority’s June announcement that it was laying off 62 information technology workers as the federal power agency outsources data and programming work, according to an administration official who asked for anonymity.

Covid case surge

The Covid-19 recession has thrown millions of Americans out of work, with uncertain prospects for a recovery given continued surges in virus case counts in many states. With the President running behind Democrat Joe Biden in polls ahead of November’s election, Trumps move would showcase actions to support jobs. The administration also remains in talks with Democrats about extending extra jobless benefits.

Trump called TVA Chief Executive Officer Jeff Lyash’s outsourcing decision disastrous and heartless. “The board must remove Lyash, or hell do it,” he said. He also said “hell remove some board members, including Chairman James Thompson”.

After being handed a note during the White House event, Trump said that he got a call from Lyash and that the TVA chief had indicated a willingness to reverse course on the announced layoffs.

The TVA supports Trump’s executive order, Jim Hopson, a spokesman for the utility, said in an emailed statement. He also said that functions performed by its information-technology unit must be performed in the US by people who are legally able to work in the country. Board members serve at the pleasure of the president and the board can still operate with the loss of one or more members, he said.

Trump’s new executive order requires federal agencies to give preference to US residents and green card holders for contract positions, just as they would for full-time roles, the official said on condition of anonymity. The order also will prompt a study to determine how many federal jobs are held by foreign visa holders.

The Trump administration is working on other changes to the H-1B visa programme that may be announced in coming weeks, the official also said.

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Published on August 04, 2020
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