Labor Council leads Microsoft backlash

An industry backlash and a kafuffle within local operations has resulted from comments a visiting Microsoft executive made last month.

Following criticism by IT industry groups, Microsoft Australia has asked the visiting executive to explain comments he made to the Australian media.

Even the NSW Labor Council has slammed Microsoft for its "betrayal" of Australian IT workers after the executive encouraged enterprises to outsource software development to India.

Labor Council spokesman Michael Gadiel said the move would have a devastating affect on the Australian IT labour market at a time when IT workers are desperate for employment and need all the support they can get.

"Australian IT workers, whilst the market is going through tough times post-tech wreck, will remember the companies that were committed to supporting them and those that were looking at making a profit," Gadiel told Computerworld.

"Microsoft makes massive profits from the Australian market, but doesn't match that with commitment to IT professionals that allow [the vendor] to make that profit."

The issue surrounds comments made in June by visiting Microsoft Asia-Pacific president, Michael Rawding, who reportedly spoke to the media about the Indian outsourcing market. His comments came just after the release of a report from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) which highlighted the advantages of outsourcing software development to India.

Rawding reportedly took the opportunity of DFAT's report to tell the media that India's emergence as a development powerhouse was one of the key areas of interest in this region.

Rawding went on to say Microsoft is increasingly seeing its large Australian customers looking to outsource development work to India, adding the software giant would help Australian businesses follow through on the report's findings.

Gadiel said, in the context of the DFAT report, "It's clear where [Microsoft] was coming from. Microsoft's position is a betrayal of the people in Australia that it expects to support it and its products locally."

However, Microsoft Australia marketing director Alison Dodd expressed disappointment at the backlash, saying Rawding's comments may have been taken out of context.

Dodd said Microsoft Australia has contacted Rawding to ask him to explain his comments.

"Michael [Rawding] didn't talk to us before he made those comments," she said.

"We don't feel we are betraying Australia at all. From a Microsoft Australia perspective we have an Australia first policy," she said, adding that the software giant invests heavily in the Australian economy and the IT skills industry. Dodd said Microsoft has invested $1.5 million in Australian universities to develop new products.

A recent reorganisation of Microsoft saw the company's Australian and New Zealand businesses become part of the Asian division bringing Australia into the same division as India. Rawding's recent visit was to meet local customers at the end of the year-long reorganisation.

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