Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Sunday, 27 September 2009 13:49 UK

British IT workers 'crowded out'

IT worker
IT contractors say they are being displaced by non-EU workers

British IT contractors claim they are struggling to get work because large companies are using a government scheme to employ people from overseas instead.

Firms are using intra-company transfer visas to move employees from overseas bases - usually in India - to UK jobs.

BBC Radio 5 live was told people are brought to the UK to work on government IT projects run by BT and Capgemini.

Both firms say they are operating within the law. The government said it was tightening the rules on such visas.

The guiding principle behind immigration rules for skilled workers coming to the UK, from outside the EU, is that an employer can only hire an overseas worker if no-one in Britain can be found to do it.

But intra-company transfer visas (ICT) mean an overseas employee can come to work for their company in the UK if they have six months' experience, are paid an appropriate salary and do not take the job of a permanent UK worker.

About 50,000 ICT visas are issued every year and two thirds of them go to employees in IT and telecommunications. About 70% are given to Indian nationals.

'Very bitter'

British IT worker Anil Verma has been out of work for two years.

"A lot of the IT contractors - they're very very bitter about it," he said.

Capgemini has no plans to replace all of its UK contractors with overseas employees
Capgemini

"The government's issued too many intra-company transfer visas and a lot of these guys have come over from India and flooded the IT industry. There's not enough jobs to go round."

Paul used to work for global IT firm Capgemini in Telford, Shropshire, on a Revenue & Customs project. His contract was not renewed and he left in May.

He says talented Britons are gradually being replaced by Indian workers brought over on ICTs and he, like other IT contractors, feels that they are being undercut by cheaper overseas labour.

"There's no sense in bringing somebody from overseas to do that if it's costing the company exactly the same," he said.

Capgemini said it complied with all the ICT visa regulations, including those relating to pay.

"Overseas people working in the UK for any of our clients provide specific skills and are permanent employees from the global Capgemini Group," it said.

"Capgemini has no plans to replace all of its UK contractors with overseas employees, as these local contractors are a valuable part of our flexible workforce."

Tighter rules

The BBC also heard from BT contractors working on an NHS patient records project in Leeds. They said Indian nationals on ICT visas were being used to fill roles once filled by British workers.

They are not filling roles that require a permanent UK presence
BT

BT said no permanent staff had been replaced.

The company admitted it had tried to reduce its reliance on what it called "expensive contractors" over the past few years by re-skilling current BT employees.

It had also outsourced some IT work to Indian companies, who could then bring workers over on ITC visas.

"They are not filling roles that require a permanent UK presence," said a spokesman.

Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, said the ICT visa system had been shown to "contribute to the UK's economic prosperity by supporting international business and encouraging investment."

However, the rules will be tightened next year and to qualify for a visa, workers will need 12 months experience with their sponsoring company and the system "will no longer lead to settlement".

The UK Border Agency said there were strict rules on what ICT visa workers should be paid and any allegations of abuse would be investigated.

This story will be broadcast on the Donal MacIntyre show on BBC Radio 5 live on Sunday at 1930 BST. Download the podcast. You can email the programme at donal@bbc.co.uk



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