Employers who abuse the fast track visa scheme to replace UK IT workers with cheaper overseas labour are to be named and shamed in a dossier presented to the Home Office by contractors lobbying body, the Professional Contractors Group (PCG).
The PCG has compiled details of fast track visa abusers - large companies it claims are using the scheme as an excuse to sack UK workers and replace them with overseas labour.
Although the fast track scheme is designed make it easier for companies to plug skills gaps in their workforce, the PCG says the data on which it is based is inaccurate. Instead companies are using the scheme to import cheap labour and put UK-based IT staff out of work.
The PCG also claims sham companies are being set up overseas to abuse a rule that allows companies to transfer workers between countries and bring them over to the UK."IT rates are being slashed and recruitment agencies are consistently reporting a huge downturn in the sector. These are not the signs of an industry with a 'skill shortage'," said PCG chairman Jane Akshar.
PCG figures suggest one in three contractors are currently out of contract.
The Home Office bases its skills shortage data on regular meetings of a Skills Sector Panel, a group of IT and telecoms industry experts from bodies including supplier trade body CSSA, the BCS and representatives from other government departments including the DFES and the DTI.
The PCG has been a member of the panel since November last year.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office denied claims by the PCG that its list of most in-demand skills was based on old research dating back in some cases more than two years.
"The PCG was involved in a meeting in November, after which the list was updated. They're in the right place to make a difference," she said.
The PCG dossier already includes details of 30 abuses but the body believes the cases highlighted are only the tip of the iceberg. It predicts the final tally will reach into the hundreds, and has set up an online facility to allow people to report in confidence on organisations breaking the rules.
"We want to continue to work with Work Permits (UK) to crack down on this abuse, and help to create a scheme which achieves its objectives of meeting a skills gap, not create a system which fast tracks UK workers to the unemployment queues. We want to work with the government to plug these loopholes," Akshar said.
The Home Office spokeswoman said any complaints of work permit abuse would be taken very seriously and investigated by the government's immigration intelligence service, but maintained that any investigations would remain confidential.
"Work Permits (UK) makes checks about applicants to make sure they are being brought over to fill a specific gap. We're confident that the checks and balances in place are adequate."
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