Washington Mutual's decision last week to lay off 370 workers in El Paso created barely a ripple outside the Texas border town. It certainly was not...

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Washington Mutual’s decision last week to lay off 370 workers in El Paso created barely a ripple outside the Texas border town.


It certainly was not the shake-up of General Motors, which is slashing 30,000 jobs, or Ford, which is wiping out 4,000 white-collar positions.


But WaMu — which has a total 56,200 employees — is taking steps to save money the same way as U.S. manufacturers: by cutting jobs and sending some work overseas.


The El Paso jobs are not being outsourced. They are vanishing, because more customers are paying credit-card bills on time, and WaMu no longer needs the El Paso collections center, a spokesman said.


Credit-card issuer Providian Financial had considered closing the center before it was acquired by WaMu last month, spokesman Tim McGarry said. He declined to say how many collections workers remain in WaMu’s credit-card business.


WaMu Chief Executive Kerry Killinger told analysts last week the company might move more jobs overseas to boost productivity. He and other officials declined to elaborate.


The nation’s largest thrift has been sending some work to Canada, the Philippines and India. It has contracts with seven outside vendors in those countries to handle work in information technology, quality assurance and other areas.


WaMu will not say how many people those vendors employ for its projects.


Those doing work for WaMu contractors in India say they have been fired for complaining about low pay and long hours, said Marcus Courtney, president of the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, which organizes high-tech workers in the U.S.


He said the employees, who worked for Wipro in India, contacted the Seattle-based group, also known as WashTech.


“WaMu is another example of a company that wants to pride itself on community involvement, community spirit and high standards, but they’ll slash jobs here locally and lower labor standards overseas in order to boost profits,” he said.


A WaMu spokeswoman said the company could not speak for Wipro. But she noted WaMu had hired a company to audit Wipro’s employment practices and that no issues had been uncovered. Wipro officials were not available yesterday.


WaMu spokeswoman Libby Hutchinson also said no U.S. jobs have been eliminated because of the company’s contracts with foreign vendors.


A spokeswoman for the Texas governor’s office said the El Paso layoffs don’t violate WaMu’s contract with the state to hire more workers in exchange for a $15 million grant. That cash is tied to job creation in San Antonio and elsewhere.


Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com