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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 10:37 GMT
Work permit system 'being abused'
IT workers
Workers are brought to the UK to fill skills gaps
British computer specialists claim abuses of the government's work permit system means they are losing jobs to workers from India.

The scheme was set up so that people from overseas could be employed quickly if they possessed skills which were in short supply in Britain.

But workers and representatives claim some UK firms are using the system to bring in people for short periods to save money and undercut UK contractors.

The Professional Contractors' Group warns firms abusing the systems that on Thursday it will present a dossier detailing cases to the government.

Skills gaps

An IT worker, who asked for his name to be withheld, says he lost his job at a blue chip company when a team of software developers from India were brought in.

"It became apparent that they lacked the necessary skills and arguably still do," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

UK workers are losing jobs on Friday and having their desks filled by workers on work permits on Monday morning

Philip Ross, Professional Contractors' Group
"Eventually myself and another UK based developer were replaced by these individuals, four of whom are currently working on the company's UK site.

"The remainder, after their UK based training, have returned to India to complete work remotely for that same client company."

The Indian company Wipro supplies overseas workers to UK firms where skills are in short supply.

Wipro's head of sales and marketing in Europe Sudip Nandy, said global and UK surveys showed that despite the slowdown in many industries, the demand for IT professionals was still greater than the supply.

"There is not really an element of anyone taking away anyone's job," he said.

'Tax evasion'

But Philip Ross, from the Professional Contractors' Group, insists the scheme is being abused by some UK firms.

"The fast track visa is supposed to fill skills shortages when it is actually being used for skills replacement," he said.

He said firms were bringing workers in for six months, then moving them back out again.

This is because workers who stay six months or less are not eligible to pay National Insurance or tax so the company can undercut UK firms and contractors by 20 - 40%, he said.

Mr Ross said a dossier would be presented to the Work Permits UK, the agency which deals with permits, detailing abuses of the system.

No evidence

Home Office minister, Lord Rooker said he had no evidence about companies abusing the system.

He said the government was in the process of setting up a charging system for work permits.

But he said the existing system was very efficient system and 130,000 people were coming into the country to work.

"That is supposed to be extra to the British economy not put British workers at risk," he said.

"If there are difficulties about flagrant abuse by individual employers I want to know about it."

See also:

01 Oct 00 | Business
Work permit laws relaxed
21 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Migrants 'benefit UK economy'
11 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Green card 'may solve skills shortage'
20 Nov 01 | Business
London woos Indian tech companies
16 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Web kiosks for India's villagers
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