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Tech Unions Speed Up as Economy Slows Down

Some IT workers looking for job security are turning to unions as employers trim payroll. Will this trend affect the insurance industry?

IT workers from all markets are turning to unions for a variety of reasons, says Gretchen Wilson, organizer at Seattle-based Washington Alli-ance of Technol-ogy Workers, known as Wash-Tech. ""People are finding themselves with legal issues,"" Wilson says. ""For instance, employment contracts-common in some areas of IT-where people have to sign immediately. What does the contract mean?"" Workers contacting WashTech include administrative help, call center reps, network staff, technical writers and Java programmers.

However, even with the economic slowdown and some firms cutting staff to reduce costs, IT workers are still in high demand. The number of unfilled IT jobs in the US will increase to 1.2 million this year, says Maria Schafer, program director, executive services, META Group. ""I do not see the economic slowdown changing the number, but it is becoming easier to hire the high-skill folks,"" she says. ""The people that were working in dot-coms have been reabsorbed in the larger technology market.""

The dot-com shake out, and even the move to unionize some areas of high tech, may be a good thing for insurance carriers. ""The first place we are seeing the softening is the technology vendors,"" as some cut back, adds Schafer. The cutbacks and the organization of some unions in IT may send workers looking for more stable employment, such as at traditional brick-and-mortar companies.

""The really major factor is IT salaries are very high,"" she notes. ""Technology users are still trying to meet the demands of customers. The economy may have slowed, but it is still in an expansion mode as far as IT usage goes.""

Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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