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Slave Ship or Ideal Solution to Bring Third World Workers to First World?


StoneMtn
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I am not so naive as to fail to see the potential for abuse of something like this, but I also see some huge upsides for impoverished workers overseas to spend 2/3 of their time living on a ship earning decent wages for their family, with the other 1/3 of their time spent vacationing back home, or even shopping in L.A. Of course, there are concerns over the accommodations and general care of workers, but if this company is to be believed, this sounds like a huge leap in the right direction, compared with bringing our business to the Third World where we pay slave-wages, use up resources until it is no longer economically viable, and then move on. There are also concerns that North American workers must now compete with these floating workers who will be paid considerably less, but we would have to see how that panned out.

Check out this snippet below, and click the link below it for the full story...

The public reaction was predictable when word first got out of SeaCode Inc.'s proposal to house 600 foreign software engineers on a cruise ship moored three miles off the California coast, thus undercutting U.S. wage rates and circumventing local labor rules.

The veteran technology columnist John Dvorak described the vessel as a "slave ship." Other critics preferred the label "sweatshop." The words "exploitative" and "inhumane" caromed around the Web. The image that first leaped to my own rather more literary mind was of the floating prison hulks that housed the convict Abel Magwitch in "Great Expectations."

-THE FULL STORY IN THE L.A. TIMES CAN BE READ BY CLICKING HERE-

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Heard about this on CBC this morning. Kinda dodgy, if you ask me, but then the whole issue of outsourcing is anyway. If I were a programmer living on the crappy side of Bangalore I might jump at something like this, but it seems like one of those things with more promise than delivery. Tricky. We'll have to see what news leaks out (if employees dare speak out).

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We'll have to see what news leaks out (if employees dare speak out).

I think this is exactly the point. I'm sure many people in the great number of disadvantaged areas of the world (to put it mildly) would jump at this opportunity. To so many people this represents a great way of supporting their families and selves.

However, I am very suspicious of companies who go to these lengths to avoid labour and other protective laws in favour of the mighty dollar. They so obviously only have their own best interests in mind. With no one to protect the individual there is a great chance of this going horribly wrong.

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I think the two of you have hit the nail on the head.

I was feeling particularly diplomatic and optimistic this morning when I wrote what I did, and I still see the potential for this to be a positive step, however, history has shown (and the law requires) that multi-nationals do not act in anyone's interests than their own, and I fear this will be one more blow to the workers of the world.

That being said, the company makes a good argument that this is a step forward for the disenfranchised countries of the world; especially for their computer programmers who would otherwise be working for one-third the wages back home.

As I write this, though, I speculate that a year from now I will be posting the fall-out from this when we find out that that the multi-nationals have managed to skew this whole initiative to their own advantage (alone) to the point that all humans involved get screwed one way or another...

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well, in my opinion, you only have to look as far as the "motivation." MNC's are not doing this for the good of the third world worker, they are attempting to work their way around the laws in order to spend less on wages and increase profit margins. If it successful, there will be a 51st state just west of California.

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Of course it's in their own interests.

My point is that I see room for a win-win situation. This is a revolutionary way to use labour from the third world, and one that requires we pay wages more commensurate with those in North America. I see that as having the potential for a move in the right direction (which is really just a coincidence, because, as you correctly stated and as alluded to by all comments above) MNCs do act only in their own interests. That being said, it is nice to imagine the potential for some good to come out of it once in a while, and I see that potential here.

To simply state that the MNCs are motivated by the wrong factors, without explaining why this idea has flaws in and of itself, is a bit too academic for me.

(Again, I am not coming out in support of the MNCs. I am simply playing Devil's Advocate for what is essentially a revolutionary idea.)

Oh, one more thing... 51st State? I think that is just plain wrong. If that were the case I would have far less concerns, as the floating team of workers would then be subject to labour and employment legislation in the US.

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I see what you are saying... That opportunities for those with limited opportunity could make significantly more working on a ship outside of California. Hmmmm, personally, I look at this from a "cause and affect" standpoint. The reason why they have come up with this idea is to lower their internal expenses... However, at who's expense?? The companies??? No, at the expense of the workers in that particular field. My previous comment where I alluded to the 51st state was in sarcasm, meaning I just think alot of companies would consider this practice. I don't believe that these particular workers would fall under any sort of labour protection, and thus I think they would be exploited... I can see how individuals from the third world would see this as a great opportunity... However, I would be very suspicious of the working conditions, the pay scale, etc.. This kind of reminds me of when I studied the U.S. Civil War, and you start to understand the "true motiviation" behind the abolishment of slave labour where they needed the slaves for cheap labour in the factories...

It would be nice to see the Global Market provide better working conditions without having to remove workers from their homes. But, maybe this is a small step in the right direction like you said.

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Choosing the lessor of two evils is still choosing evil.

I think there is a major fallacy in the argument that its better then they'd do at home. I could see that argument if they were on American soil and working for a proper American wage etc. But the way I understand it is their aren't. [caveat: I did not sign up for the LA Times and haven't read the article].

This is really just circumventing the law and painting a nice picture of it. They should pay the better wage wherever the workers are...

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MoMack:

First, when I posted this this morning, you were able to click on the link and be taken right to the article without registering. I don't know what has happened since, but I see that you cannot just link there now.

Second, I agree with your first post, but not your second. I, too, fear that this company will not adhere to North American standards for employment of these people, however, (bearing in mind that you have not read the article) these jobs do not appear to be replacing domestic jobs. Rather, these are in lieu of the outsourcing that is already going on within central and east Asia. So, my point is this will cause work to be brought back from those locales to be done "off shore", just off of California, where the workers will be paid far more than they are now by similar companies to work within their own countries. Viewed in this way, it appears to be no loss to the current number of domestic jobs, and merely replacing off-shore work with other off-shore work, and paying the workers more for it.

Now, please bear in mind that I am the last person to blindly trust MNCs, and as I have stated I fear that in a year we will know exactly why this is actually just another evil ploy by those with the power, but I am also wrestling with this issue and trying to see both sides. I am more than happy, however, to be corrected on anything I've said, and would actually prefer to go back to my usual, default position of hating the MNCs without giving any benefit of the doubt, but I do see flaws in taking such a steadfast approach in this case.

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This has been happening in more-or-less the same way for quite a while in a number of countries around the world already, in the form of "free zones". These are areas in Mexico, China, India, etc. Where multinationals are basically allowed to set up shop, not pay corporate taxes or abide by most labour standards, and have developing country labourers flock to them for work. It's particularly sad that mnc's are so intent on saving a buck that they're willing to go a step further than this. I think it's appaling.

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indeed. if this works, then the ocean off the US coast becomes another third world economic incentive zone...if they really want to do something noble, keep thse guys at home with their families and pay them a living wage.

this is a total dodge to allow them to get the most worker bang for the fewest dollars.

bastards.

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