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Indian techies in US may lose jobs in Microsoft

Indian IT professionals working for Microsoft Corp in the US could be among those who lose jobs after it announced plans to sack 5,000 employees.

business Updated: Jan 26, 2009 21:53 IST

Indian IT professionals working for Microsoft Corp in the US could be among those who lose jobs after it announced plans to sack 5,000 employees with the software giant. This move indicates some of the affected would likely be non-Americans amid calls to first target foreigners working on H-1B visas.

The world's biggest software company has been asked by an influential Republican Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, to first fire foreign workers hired on H-1B visas, a majority of whom are Indians, while implementing the layoff plan and "protect" the jobs of Americans.

An indication that foreigners who also include Indians could be targetted during the layoffs came when a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement said, "We care about all our employees, so we are providing services and support to try to help every affected worker, whether they are US workers or foreign nationals working in this country on a visa."

The company has been in the forefront for expanding the H-1B visa programme, a temporary visa programme that lets American companies and universities hire thousands of foreign workers in a category considered by the government requiring specialised skills.

Dashing off a letter to the company after it recently announced its intention to slash the workforce by 5,000 in the next 18 months, Grassley voiced concern that this would result in American workers losing jobs and not the 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," Grassley said in the letter to Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.
Microsoft is one of the major beneficiaries of H-1B work visa programme, which is mainly for overseas professionals. A majority of the 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," Grassley said.

"I want to make sure employers recruit qualified American workers first before hiring foreign guest workers," he wrote in his letter.

The Senator had co-sponsored a Congressional legislation to overhaul the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes to give priority to American workers and to crack down on 'unscrupulous' employers who deprive qualified Americans of high-skilled jobs.

"Fraud and abuse is rampant in these programs, and we need more transparency to protect the integrity of our immigration system," said Grassley, who supported the legislation which would strengthen educational opportunities for US students and workers so that Americans can compete successfully globally.

In his letter, he asked Microsoft to provide a breakdown of the employees being axed by it as per its latest decision.

"What is the breakdown in the jobs that are being eliminated? What kind of jobs are they? How many employees in each area will be cut? Are any of these jobs being cut held by H-1B or other work visa programme employees? If so, how many?" he asked.

"How many of the jobs being eliminated are filled by Americans? Of those positions, is Microsoft retaining similar ones filled by foreign guest workers? If so, how many? How many H-1B or other work visa programme workers will Microsoft be retaining when the planned layoff is completed?" the Senator asked.