Senator wants Microsoft to account for U.S. jobs cut in layoff

UPDATED: 01/27/09. Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, wants Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to provide a breakdown of the jobs Microsoft plans to eliminate in terms of how many will be folks with H-1B visas and how many will be Americans, reports Reuters. Ballmer had said during a live telecast with analysts that although Microsoft plans to eliminate up to 5,000 jobs over the course of 18 months, the company also planned to hire a few thousand people for key areas like search. Microsoft Subnet questioned at that time whether this was another way for Microsoft to say that it was killing U.S. jobs and shifting them to overseas workers.

Microsoft Subnet isn't alone in questioning the odd layoff-but-also-hiring news. Per a January 22 letter, Grassley asked Ballmer to spell it out, not just for the 1,400 people given the pink slip on Thursday, but for all the jobs that will be covered by the layoff.

Microsoft has been a vocal advocate of increasing H-1B visas, claiming that it is simply impossible to find enough American talent to fill a never-ending need for new hires. Now that it has officially announced a layoff, one has to wonder how Microsoft will change its tune on the H-1B visa issue.

According to an article in Computerworld, Microsoft did say that foreign workers would comprise a "significant number" of those laid off, but didn't detail how many of the workers losing their jobs are in the U.S. on a visa. The story also points out that the law insists that companies treat visa workers the same as U.S. citizens -- meaning a company can't prioritize them for job protection, nor can it particularly target them for layoffs. The article says:

"Microsoft will not disclose the number of H-1B workers on its payroll, and it is hard to get a complete picture on any company's visa use from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, but Microsoft is considered a leading H-1B employer. From available department data, in two years alone -- 2006 and 2007 -- it received approval for nearly 2,300 visas."

An Indian press report claims that Microsoft has promised that it is not laying off employees at its India operations, but that could be hearsay -- a Microsoft spokesperson was not available to confirm or deny the report.

Visit the Microsoft Subnet web site for more news, blogs, podcasts. Subscribe to all Microsoft Subnet bloggers.bi-weekly Microsoft newsletter. (Click on News/Microsoft News Alert.)10 Windows 7 beta videos depicting all the best stuff in the new OSVista Capable lawsuit damages to Microsoft could be $8.5 billionMicrosoft layoff: up to 5,000 jobs slashed, 1,400 todayWindows 7: the untold story of how the enterprise gets snubbedEU slaps Microsoft (again) for antitrust over IE bundled with Windows

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