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Group accuses Honeywell of planning to export jobs

But the firm says the charges are off-base. Honeywell says it expects flat employment in the U.S. in its aerospace business.

An alliance of technology workers on Tuesday accused conglomerate Honeywell International of planning to move thousands of jobs to low-cost regions over the next five years--a charge that Honeywell denies.

The Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, a group critical of offshoring, published documents on its Web site that it said came from Honeywell. The alliance, also known as WashTech, says the documents indicate an intent to ship 5,000 aerospace division jobs abroad.

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One of the documents, titled "Strategies In-Place to Enable 5-Year Plan" outlines actions such as "Establish Avionics manufacturing capability in Brno, Czech Republic" and "Increase use of Bangalore/Brno/Mexico technical capabilities for all businesses."

Honeywell sells products ranging from thermostats to aircraft-landing systems to chemicals. The Morristown, N.J.-based company employs approximately 100,000 people in 95 countries, according to its Web site.

"The jobs that Honeywell is exporting are not low-level jobs," Marcus Courtney, president of the alliance, said in a statement. "Its corporate practices are not only threatening the job security of U.S. workers, it is putting America's competitive advantage at risk."

A Honeywell representative confirmed that the documents are authentic but said the alliance's claims are inaccurate.

The company declined to comment on the documents' specific content but offered a statement in response to WashTech's charges. "The claims made by WashTech today are inaccurate. Our five-year growth plan for our aerospace business anticipates employment to remain flat in the United States and in other Western markets, while expanding in high-growth regions," the statement reads in part.

The shipment of high-skilled work overseas has been a hot-button topic for white-collar workers in the United States, including technology professionals. Defenders of offshoring say it ultimately benefits the U.S. economy and its workers. Critics claim that the practice eliminates well-paying jobs and threatens the nation's long-term technological leadership.

The exact scope and impact of offshoring has been hard to pin down. Congress recently passed a measure setting aside $2 million to study the issue.

In its statement, Honeywell argued that hiring in various parts of the world is key to being competitive. "As a global technology leader, we must participate in the worldwide economy and open new markets for our products and services, while continuing to recruit and retain a competitive and talented global work force," the company said. "The result will be a company that stays ahead of the curve; focuses on meeting the needs of our customers; provides challenging opportunities for our employees and sustains growth over the long-term for shareholders."

WashTech's announcement Tuesday wasn't the first time it has allegedly uncovered offshoring plans. Earlier this year, the alliance said it had obtained internal Microsoft documents showing that at least two of India's offshore-outsourcing companies are working on the software giant's Longhorn operating system.

WashTech was formed in 1998 by Microsoft contract employees at the software company's Redmond, Wash., headquarters. The group is affiliated with the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America union.