CHARLOTTE … Microsoft plans to shift more of its technical-support jobs overseas in the next year, a move that could mean hundreds of layoffs in Charlotte and two other U.S. operations, a Silicon Valley newspaper reported today.

In April, Microsoft opened a new customer-support center in Bangalore, India. As it grows, the Bangalore center could take over more of the customer-service and technical-support work now handled in Charlotte, Issaquah, Wash., and Las Colinas, Texas, according to a story in the San Jose Mercury News.

The company has about 800 full-time employees at each site, and Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake said it’s unclear how many of those employees would be affected. Microsoft plans to hire 150 employees in Bangalore over the next fiscal year, which starts today.

“There may be some impact on U.S. sites. In our business, we’re always evaluating different strategies to improve customer support,” Drake told the newspaper.

Charlotte Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Public Relations Stacey Ellis said officials in the Queen City have received no word of impending Microsoft layoffs, so they can’t predict the impact on local development efforts.

“That would be pretty uncool,” Metrolina Entrepreneurial Council President Terry Thorson said of the prospect of Microsoft cutting back … or possibly eliminating … its Charlotte operations. “Businesses are always looking for ways to cut expenses, and using overseas labor is one way to do that.”

Union opposes move

Microsoft, like many technology companies, has been shifting customer-service operations overseas. The company relies on workers in India to cut labor costs and run an 18-hour worldwide business cycle.

Employees in Las Colinas, near Dallas, told the Seattle-based Washington Alliance of Technology Workers that they have been informed of the plan by their supervisors and been told to begin looking for new jobs, according to the newspaper.

“The managers here are very clear. By the end of fiscal year 2004, our jobs will all be gone,” Eric Poore, a Microsoft employee in Las Colinas who handles technical support for enterprise customers, said in a statement issued by the union.

The Washington alliance has started a campaign to stem what it calls the “Great Tech Job Exodus,” urging elected officials to discourage U.S. technology companies from sending jobs offshore.

The union called the plan to move jobs to Bangalore “the largest one-time firing of full-time Microsoft employees in the company’s history.”