Courtney has asked the Government Accountability Office to assess whether the H-1B visa program, which is designed to help firms recruit small numbers of specialised workers, is being used to circumvent strict US labour laws and bring in many overseas staff.
The move follows reports that Pfizer is using large numbers of foreign workers at their preclinical R&D campuses in Groton and New London, Connecticut, in a effort to replace their local IT workforce, according to local newspaper The Day.
The paper said that the workers are sourced by Indian agencies Infosys TechnologiesandSatyam Computer Services rather than Pfizer, which said claims to employ only 60 members of staff through the H-1B scheme.
In an interview, Courtney said that former Connecticut congressman Bruce Morrison, an opponent of H-1Bs, told him that rules governing the use of the guest worker programme are unclear and that that Pfizer's actions may be entirely within the law.
He also said that the outgoing Bush administration “has been pathetic in terms of upholding the law” in terms of employee protection.
It is unclear how US President-elect Obama’s incumbent government will view firm’s that seek to bring in overseas workers, given his somewhat contradictory campaign pledge to both reduce drug costs, lower the number of jobs outsourced overseas but not shy away from globalisation