Get rid of foreigners first, Senator urges Microsoft

A US senator has asked Microsoft about its plans to slash up to 5,000 jobs, urging the world's biggest software company to keep Americans' jobs ahead of foreigners working on visas, Reuters reports.

'I am concerned that Microsoft will be retaining foreign guest workers rather than similarly qualified American employees when it implements its layoff plan,' Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in a January 22 letter.

Microsoft announced it is to sack 5,000 staff last week. The company has been a champion of expanding the H-1B visa program, a temporary visa program that lets American companies and universities hire foreign workers in a category considered by the government to be a 'specialty occupation.'

Microsoft employs thousands of workers through the visa program, according to Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. In his letter, Grassley demanded that CEO Steve Ballmer provide a breakdown of the jobs to be eliminated, and how many of those are individuals with H-1B visas and how many are Americans.

'Microsoft has a moral obligation to protect these American workers by putting them first during these difficult economic times,' Grassley said in the letter.