Chinese employees at Microsoft's Nokia arm protest mass layoffs

BEIJING Fri Aug 1, 2014 2:50pm IST

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BEIJING Aug 1 (Reuters) - "Hundreds" of Chinese employees at Microsoft Corp's Nokia phone business protested on Friday against mass layoffs that the U.S. tech company announced last month, according to an employee present and pictures posted on social media networks.

Protesters held banners and shouted slogans against "Microsoft's hostile takeover and violent layoffs" for five hours until "they had sore throats," said the employee who participated in the demonstration and so declined to be identified.

The protesters would convene on Friday afternoon to discuss demands they would present to the company, the employee said.

Microsoft announced on July 17 the deepest job cuts in its 39-year history, amounting to 18,000 positions. Microsoft said up to 12,500 of those jobs would come from Nokia, the Finnish handset maker it bought in April in a $7.2 billion friendly takeover.

The protests took place at a Beijing research centre and factory employing 2,400 people, according to a statement from organisers, and amounted to the latest in a string of troubles for the U.S. software giant in China.

Microsoft offices in four cities were raided this week by Chinese authorities as part of an ongoing anti-monopoly investigation announced on Tuesday.

More broadly, labour disputes have risen across China over the past year in tandem with a slowdown in growth in the world's No. 2 economy.

Since taking the helm of Microsoft in February, Chief Executive Satya Nadella has pledged to slim down his company to compete with nimbler internet-based rivals.

Microsoft earlier this year said it would make changes company-wide within 18 months of closing the Nokia acquisition that would lead to costs-savings of up to $600 million per year.

The latest cuts, which will be completed by June 30, 2015, represent about 14 percent of Microsoft's worldwide workforce.

A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to provide immediate comment by telephone and did not respond to questions by e-mail. (Reporting by Gerry Shih, Paul Carsten and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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