Press Notice No 11/02:
PCG warns ‘Wrong time to relax work permit
The Professional Contractors Group has warned the Home Office
that it is the wrong time to relax the laws on work permits
for overseas IT workers and has advised it to reject proposals
to allow agencies to bring in contractors from abroad on ‘fast
track visa’ work permits.
Work Permits UK, the Government agency responsible for the
issue of work permits, has undertaken a consultation to review
the policy of the work permit issue as regards recruitment and
employment agencies and contractors. At present agencies are
only able to recruit workers for advertised positions and cannot
directly import foreign contractors, but agents and their representative
bodies have been lobbying the Government to relax this rule.
The PCG has submitted a detailed paper to Work Permits as part
of this consultation process, outlining why it would be wrong
to relax these fast track entry requirements at this time.
Philip Ross, PCG Policy Advisor, said: “There are many things
we want changed within the current work permits scheme, but
this isn’t one of them. We want the scheme to be tightened up
to stop firms displacing UK contractors and dismantling projects
and taking them offshore.
“In the past few months, the PCG has had some success in demonstrating
to the Government that the scheme has needed tightening up and
the Government has taken action in some areas on this. But to
now consider relaxing one part of the scheme while tightening
up on another is contradictory. We have clearly demonstrated
that the scheme is already being abused and misused – this proposal
to extend it further will result in more abuses of the system.
There is little point plugging one hole if you are going to
open up a bigger one.
“The UK’s IT industry is currently in recession and there are
more skilled workers out of work in this industry than at any
time in the past. There is clear and growing evidence that there
is not a skills shortage in this sector. Surveys by the PCG,
and others, have demonstrated that at least 30 per cent and
possibly as many as 50 per cent of contractors are between contracts,
while other surveys continue to show the IT contract market
is in recession. This combined with the recent news that many
firms are forcing their contractors to take huge rate cuts suggests
there is no need to import more IT workers from abroad.
“Our principal criticism of the current scheme is that it doesn’t
recognise fully the role of IT contractors in the market. Under
the current arrangements: ‘tier 1’, ‘tier 2’ and ‘intra-company
transfer permit’ issues, generally known as ‘fast track visas’
are often being used to displace resident IT contractors.
“Evidence received by PCG from members and others has demonstrated
that foreign permit workers are currently replacing UK workers.
This evidence has been handed over to Work Permits UK and to
the Home Office Minister. Changing the scheme to allow agencies
to issue work permits themselves will result in further abuses
of the system and would relax the criteria at the time we’re
showing clear evidence that it needs tightening up.”
The PCG’s submission has been handed to Work Permits and will
be passed to Ministers in July, with submissions by other groups
concerned by the proposals. The results on whether there will
be a change in policy, or not, will be announced in September.
Notes to editors
- The Professional Contractors Group was formed in May 1999
to lobby against the Government’s IR35 proposals. It is a
non-party political group and its patrons are cross-bench
peer, Lord Weatherill, former Speaker of the House of Commons;
and industry guru Sir John Harvey-Jones. Since its formation
it has evolved into the representative body for independent
contractors from many disciplines including IT and engineering
on a range of issues affecting the knowledge-based sector.
- The PCG’s aim is to work for proper recognition of independent
contractors as a genuine and valuable sector of the economy,
generating wealth and employment, providing industry with
a flexible workforce. The Internet has been the primary resource,
providing fast, effective communication.
- PCG has been actively involved in the fast track visa campaign
and represents the contractor community on the Government’s
Skill Sector Panel for IT. The fast track visa scheme permits
companies to bring in overseas workers who possess skills
which are deemed to be in short supply.
- The Work Permits Consultation document was entitled: ‘Review
of Work Permit Policy on Recruitment and Employment Agencies
The PCG’s response to Work Permits Consultation is available
in full here:
- For further information about the PCG see: www.pcgroup.org.uk
- For further press notices about the PCG’s position on fast
track visas see: www.pcgroup.org.uk/press_rel.html
For further information:
07881 685 952