Jan 27, 2009

Business - Fire foreigners first, Senator asks Microsoft

Washington: As Microsoft announced plans to axe 5,000 employees, an influential Republican Senator has asked the software giant to fire foreign workers hired on visas — including Indians — first and “protect” the jobs of Americans amid the global economic downturn.

Dashing off a letter to chief executive Steve Ballmer after Microsoft recently announced its intention to slash the workforce by 5,000 over the next 18 months, the Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, voiced concern that this would result in American workers losing jobs and not foreigners hired on H-1B or L visas.

“During a layoff, companies should not be retaining H-1B or other work visa programme employees over qualified American workers.”

Microsoft is one of the major beneficiaries of H-1B work visa programme, which is mainly for overseas professionals. A majority of 60,000 professionals given H-1B visa every year are from India. “Microsoft has a moral obligation to protect these American workers by putting them first during these difficult economic times,” the Senator said.

“I am concerned that Microsoft will be retaining foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American employees when it implements its layoff plan.”

The Senator had co-sponsored congressional legislation to overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes to crack down on ‘unscrupulous’ employers who deprived qualified Americans of high-skilled jobs. “Fraud and abuse is rampant in these programmes, and we need more transparency to protect the integrity of our immigration system.” He asked Microsoft to provide a breakdown of the employees being axed. — PTI

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