'Axe foreigners first'

WASHINGTON - A US senator has asked Microsoft to axe temporary foreign workers first under the US software giant's plan to slash up to 5,000 jobs amid a global economic slowdown.

'I am concerned that Microsoft will be retaining foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American employees when it implements its layoff plan,' Republican Senator Charles Grassley said in a letter Friday to Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

'As you know, I want to make sure employers recruit qualified American workers first before hiring foreign guest workers,' he said.

Microsoft employs thousands of foreigners through an H-1B visa program that allows American companies and universities to employ them temporarily.

'The purpose of the H-1B program is to help companies hire foreign guest workers on a temporary basis when there is not a sufficient qualified American workforce to meet those needs,' Mr Grassley said.

'However, the program is not intended to replace qualified American workers,' he said.

At present, the United States imposes a general quota of 65,000 H-1B visas annually, many of them issued to those from India, China and the Philippines.

'My point is that during a layoff, companies should not be retaining H-1B or other work visa program employees over qualified American workers,' Mr Grassley said. 'Our immigration policy is not intended to harm the American workforce.' He asked Mr Ballmer to provide details of the jobs that were being eliminated.

Microsoft on Thursday reported that its net profit fell by 11 per cent in the quarter from a year ago and said it was eliminating up to 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months.

The job cuts will be in research and development, marketing, sales, finance, legal, human resources, and information technology, the Redmond, Washington-based company said.

Microsoft employs some 91,000 people and rumors of job cuts at the world's biggest software firm had been circulating for weeks. -- AFP


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