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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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March 12, 2009 9:47 AM

Billionaire Bill, down $18 billion, is back on top of Forbes list

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Scroogeswim.jpg The Forbes list of the world's richest people is practically a rite of spring around here. Are we home to the richest, second richest or, gasp, third richest person in the world? This year, as billionaires around the world saw their fortunes cut by the global economic downturn, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates lost the least among the top three -- $18 billion -- and edged back to the top spot on the list with about $40 billion in his money bin. Gates' friend and partner-in-philanthropy Warren Buffett is No. 2 on the list, with $37 very large. (He had moved to No. 1 in last year's survey.) Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Helu, who surpassed Gates as world's richest in summer 2007 (by a different estimate), is third on the global list with $35 billion. Another software titan, Larry Ellison of Oracle, leaped from 14th in 2008 to 4th, at $22.5 billion.

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Compensation , Financial , Miscellaneous , Personalities , Philanthropy , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 2, 2009 10:55 PM

Who is Phil Palios, organizer of the Microsoft contract worker protest?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Phil Palios holds a hastily made sign while protesting a 10 percent rate cut for Microsoft temporary workers. The Redmond native who has always wanted to work at Microsoft organized a protest Monday night that drew about two dozen temporary workers.

Phil Palios grew up in Redmond watching Microsoft grow. It's where he always wanted to work. He was glad to have the opportunity to get a foot in the door as a contractor. But he became disillusioned with the size of the company today and the way it treats its workers, particularly those who are hired through third-party employment agencies. When his employer, Volt, passed on the news Friday that all contractors would have to take a 10 percent pay cut -- for him it would mean going from $34.25 an hour to about $30.83 -- Palios had had enough.

"I had no intention of accepting a 10 percent pay cut," Palios said in an interview Monday afternoon at Victor's Coffee in downtown Redmond, before attending a rare, albeit small, labor protest at Microsoft that evening. "So I viewed it as, I am not going to accept this pay cut. They might let me go sooner. I might get black-listed or something, but I wanted to at least act and make my voice heard and try to unite the workers and have them realize that if they form an alliance -- it doesn't have to be a union, if they just work together -- they can have a lot more power and open up communication channels with the company."

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Comments | Category: Coming and going , Compensation , Microsoft layoffs , Personalities |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 26, 2009 5:55 AM

Microsoft temps face 10 percent pay cut

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The thousands of contractors who work at Microsoft through third-party agencies are facing pay cuts beginning Monday, as Microsoft continues to look for ways to cut costs.

Microsoft and its contracting agencies agreed to a 10 percent cut in the bill rate, impacting all temporary worker assignments. Several contract employees have said the reduction is being passed on to them in the form of a pay cut. One person said some agencies are seeking to pass deeper pay cuts onto their workers. Several contractors contacted The Seattle Times, asking for anonymity for fear that speaking out would jeopardize their jobs.

The 10 percent cut is for existing contracts. New contracts will have a 15 percent reduction in the rate.

The cuts are not a complete surprise, as Microsoft had been trimming its contract work force even before it announced layoffs of 1,400 full-time employees Jan. 22 -- the first major job reduction in company history. At that time, the company also said it intended to cut spending on contractors by up to 15 percent.

Another contractor said the cuts impact so-called "a-dash" employees, also known as contingent staff. It's not immediately clear if "v-dash" employees, who are vendors, are facing similar cuts.

Notification of some contract employees began Tuesday. Microsoft does not disclose how many contractors it employs. These workers staff reception desks, test software, provide specialized consulting services and perform other functions that keep the company running through outside agencies. Sid Parakh, analyst at McAdams Wright Ragen, has estimated the figure to be around 40,000.

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Comments | Category: Compensation , Corporate organization , Employee benefits , Microsoft layoffs , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 23, 2009 3:12 PM

Microsoft lets 25 laid-off employees keep severance overpayment

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


After asking 25 laid-off Microsoft employees to return an overpayment of severance benefits, Microsoft's top human resources executive decided to let them keep the money. Calling it a "unique circumstance," Lisa Brummel, senior vice president of human resources, said the employees will not have to repay the overpayment, which ranged from a couple hundred dollars to over $5,000, but averaged about $4,000 to $5,000 across the 25 employees. [Parker Brothers Monopoly card via]

An additional 20 laid-off employees were underpaid severance. They will receive received checks making up the correct amount.

All 45 individuals are part of the group of 1,400 people notified of layoffs on Jan. 22.

Updated, 3:55 p.m.: Brummel did a round of interviews this afternoon in a bid to quickly put to rest an issue that has drawn negative attention to the company's handling of the layoffs. TechCrunch broke the story on Saturday, posting a letter from Microsoft to a laid-off employee seeking repayment of the extra severance. Other media picked it up over the weekend and today.

She said the issue came to her attention through "internal channels."

"This was brought to my attention just recently in the past two days that we had done this and I said, 'You know, this is a unique population. This is a unique circumstance. I think our normal course of business action is the wrong one to take in this case. We should in fact not pursue repayment from those employees and I am going to call each of them personally and let them know that, which I have done,'" she said.

"I can tell you universally they were quite happy," Brummel said. "I just felt like it was--- this is a unique circumstance where normal course of business doesn't really apply."

Asked if the attention the story was getting played into her decision to let the laid-off employees keep the extra severance, Brummel said, "Honestly, I didn't see any of the media coverage." She said she reads the papers but was "more interested in the Seattle Opera review today than anything else."

The severance payment errors were due to a "clerical mistake on our end," she said.

Severance benefits varied by country. Most U.S. employees were eligible for at least 60 days of pay, and additional severance based on tenure and level.

What do you think of Microsoft's decision?

Comments | Category: Compensation , Corporate culture , Corporate governance , Employee benefits , Microsoft layoffs |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 23, 2009 5:15 AM

Microsoft news roundup: New work force training program; Severance benefits overpaid; More than half of Xbox 360 users pay for Live subscription

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft on Sunday launched Elevate America, a multi-part work force training effort starting in partnership with three states, including Washington. The program, billed as an expansion of existing job-training efforts, "provides immediate support in response to the current economic crisis," the company said in a statement. Starting immediately, job seekers can learn what skills they need for technology jobs and how to get them at a new Web site that starts with the basics, such as sending e-mail, and moves up to specific Microsoft programs. The three-year effort also includes vouchers for access to the company's eLearning courses and selected certification exams. See this story by my Seattle Times colleague Linda Shaw for more details.

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Comments | Category: Compensation , Employee benefits , News roundup , Public policy & issues , Xbox 360 |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 12, 2009 7:28 PM

Microsoft's new Online boss gets 390,422 shares, vesting over 4 years

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Qi Lu, the Yahoo executive lured by Steve Ballmer to head Microsoft's Online Services Group, was awarded 390,422 shares of company stock Wednesday, according to this SEC filing. The shares will vest as follows over the next four years: "20% on January 5, 2010, 20% on January 5, 2011, 20% on January 5, 2012, and 40% on January 5, 2013, subject to continued employment." At Wednesday's closing price of $19.21 a share, the award is worth $7.5 million. Lu owned 200 shares before the award, according to a separate SEC filing.

Comments | Category: Compensation , Employee benefits , Online services , Yahoo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 3, 2009 5:29 AM

Report: IBM offering to relocate laid off workers to India, China, Brazil

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

InformationWeek, citing an internal document, reports that IBM is helping recently laid off workers find positions with the company overseas. From the document:

"IBM has established Project Match to help you locate potential job opportunities in growth markets where your skills are in demand. Should you accept a position in one of these countries, IBM offers financial assistance to offset moving costs, provides immigration support, such as visa assistance, and other support to help ease the transition of an international move."

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Comments | Category: China , Coming and going , Compensation , Employee benefits , India , Public policy & issues , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 4, 2008 1:28 PM

Top Microsofties get stock awards

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Ten senior Microsoft executives received stock awards last week, which were reported in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday. The awards "were the result of the performance review of our executive officers for their fiscal year 2008 equity compensation," according to a spokesman. They vest 25 percent at a time on Aug. 31, 2008, and each Aug. 31 thereafter.

Here are the execs, their awards, their total Microsoft shares, and the value of their total shares at Thursday's closing price:

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Comments | Category: Compensation , Financial |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine







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