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The Tennessee Valley Authority is giving formal notice Wednesday to 62 IT workers in Chattanooga and Knoxville that their jobs are ending in 90 days as the federal utility moves to outsource more data and programming work.

Since TVA announced last year it would outsource some of the computer programming work being done at its Chattanooga computer center and its headquarters in Knoxville, nearly half of the 120 jobs being cut have already been phased out as workers found other jobs at TVA or left the agency.

"This is obviously a difficult move that we recognized will cause some hardship to some employees, but after studying this for more than a year, we feel it will help our operations and keep us more in line with what other utilities and federal agencies are doing as we shift to more cloud-based computing with programs and tools that are not necessarily proprietary or developed for just one company." TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said Tuesday. "We've been pleased that we have been able to find so many jobs for those being impacted by this move and we will be offering outplacement services for these other 62 workers."

Despite opposition from one of TVA's biggest employee unions and some members of Congress, TVA is replacing about one of every five workers in its information technology division with outside contractors that specialize in such work and can be more effective and efficient, according to TVA Vice President Jeremy Fisher.

"The demand for technology has never been higher, but there is a natural constraint on that if you are trying to do everything in-house and on your own," Fisher told the Times Free Press earlier this year. "We're looking to leverage the market with people who have the expertise to help us deliver more technology to help move TVA along that path of continuous improvement."

The parent company of each of the three software development contractors being hired by TVA are headquartered outside of the United States. The software developers hired by TVA include CapGemini, which is based in France and has half its staff in India; the Canadian-based CGI, and Accenture Federal Services, which is headquartered in Virginia and is a subsidiary of the Irish-based Accenture plc.

The use of contractors with foreign headquarters for America's biggest government-owned utility has drawn fire from the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers union and U.S. Rep Steve Cohen, D-Memphis.

Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, blasted TVA for "sending pink slips to Americans and providing paychecks to foreign nationals" in the midst of a U.S. recession. U.S. Rep Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, is supporting efforts in the coronavirus pandemic relief legislation to limit the ability of TVA to outsource jobs.

"In the middle of a global health pandemic and national emergency, it is incomprehensible that TVA would outsource jobs held by hard-working Americans," Cohen said.

Hopson said the IT work done for TVA will still be done by U.S. workers and the contractors are likely to hire at least some of the TVA workers being displaced by the outsourcing of the work. The contractors being hired by TVA has also done software programming work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Navy, among other government agencies, Hopson said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340

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