Collabera and IBM at Navistar

It’s rare in IT consulting to find a pair of companies with fewer ethics. Even rarer when they require you to take ethics training. I’ve written about corporate ethics many times on this blog.

Some time prior to 10/06/2021 I was contacted by one of the 32,767 cousins recruiting for Collabera. They have to use these shell companies because they are over on the green card and visa worker quota for a single company. The only way to exceed the quotas is to spin up shell companies (or have others with a phone become a company) that can each have their own quota. I’m a U.S. citizen so it really didn’t matter. On 10/06/2021 I was scheduled for a remote interview with the IBM team in India taking over the Navistar account. The reason I was targeted is the fact I worked there as a contractor over many years. I had either written myself or been on the team writing many of the systems at Navistar that IBM was now taking over. There were some technical difficulties but eventually the Web interview with the off-shore team happened on 10/11/2021.

Beginning of the saga

On 10/18/2021 I received a signed offer letter via the cousin company. This offer came with a six month non-compete which is pretty standard in the IT industry. Collabera was completely aware of the offer letter and its non-compete. I was even set up in the Collabera time tracking/payroll system.

On 10/27/2021 I was then assigned on-boarding training to complete at my own expense via the Collabera LMS. This training, if you actually read every document and watch every video takes roughly two full days to complete. A big part of it is Ethics training which makes it clear that requiring an employee or co-worker to break the law is a termination level offense. (Remember this part.)

Everything had to be completed prior to November 1st as that week I was supposed to start with a mix of on-site and remote. I got my direct deposit set up in the payroll system, completed all of the training. Had the background check completed. The only thing that had yet to happen was the arrival of an IBM issued laptop. I was told I would have to use my own Lenovo laptop until that got sorted. Not a big deal.

On December 17, 2021 I was told IBM had finally signed all contracts with Navistar and that the project would spin up in January. This was to be a six plus year long contract and they were taking over from the losing bidder so having them take a bit of time to get started was not unusual. They were going to be on-boarding well over 100 people.

Here’s where the ethics crime started

On January 26, 2022 I was contacted by yet another Collabera person wanting to on-board me directly into the Collabera payroll system for the IBM/Navistar project. I informed them I was brought in via one of the 32,767 cousins in October and there was a six month non-compete. They would have to on-board me via them. They insisted that this was a “new project” because all information about the previous project had been deleted from the database when project went on hold.

I forwarded this to the IBM account rep who had spoken to me many times over these months. Eventually he contacted me and said he would look into it with Collabera. I then got copied on an email from one of the upper mucky-mucks at Collabera directing their employee to on-board me via the original presenter as they were the vendor of record. This was __after__ the IBM rep told me the same person told him point blank that they shouldn’t have to use the vendor of record because I was a citizen and they only had to use them for green cards.

I refused to break the law. All contact from Collabera ceased.

It gets better

Back when this all began I had given the IBM account rep the names of two individuals I had worked with previously who had both worked at Navistar. One was fully retired and supposed to come in with me on the initial contract. The other was working remotely for somebody else at the time. Contact is a bit too vague. For roughly a decade I worked for/with the first individual at Navistar. He was my first manager there. The second individual I had worked with at two different client sites. Had known him twenty years or more. We spoke on the phone at least every month if not every week.

In late January the IBM account rep told me point blank on the phone he looked the Collabera management in the eye and “demanded closure on ***name***.” They were still sticking to the opinion they should be able to cut out the vendor of record and keep that extra margin for themselves. (This was a 6+ year contract.)

In February my friend reached out to let me know he had been contacted by Collabera who said they were given his name by IBM. They scheduled an interview. He got hired and went through on-boarding. When it came time to get credentialled on the Navistar systems his former boss claimed he would be “too disruptive” (yeah, there’s history there, but he was there 11 years and she wasn’t. Upper management had to come down on her and her team many times after she got over a group. She wanted the history to be gone with upper management now that Volkswagen was in charge.)

You knew this was coming

Surprise surprise IBM account rep calls me back the very same day this happens. In fact, I’m on the phone with my friend when they call. I’ve already heard everything. IBM account rep played the “we haven’t found anyone” card and I didn’t get confrontational on the phone. I just told him I had lost interest because the entire process was unethical.

At this point one has to wonder if either Collabera or IBM have even the tiniest shred of ethics. I certainly don’t believe either have any ethics. IBM was made aware up front that Collabera wanted me to break the law, it may not have been law with a prison term, but it was contract law enforceable via a judge and court. According to the rather detailed and cumbersome on-boarding training, especially the ethics portion, requiring anyone to break the law as part of their employment was a termination level offense. IBM is still doing business with Collabera. According to my friends at Navistar the position never got filled.

Did they honestly believe someone who writes an award winning technical book series wouldn’t get around to writing a review of this episode?

Both Collabera and IBM appear to be void of ethics. I make this judgment based on the fact both completely ignore the ethics training new hires must go through.

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