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Contractor visa outcry is futile

Antony Adshead
IT contractors' protests at planned quota increases in the number of fast-track visas issued to foreign IT workers have been branded futile by IT directors.

The objections to the quota increases - announced by Gordon Brown in last month's spending review - centre on contractors' claims that it is inappropriate to import IT staff into a depressed jobs market. The quota increases will increase the number of fast-track visas issued in the coming year by 67,000 to 175,000.

The Professional Contractors Group (PCG) claimed there is currently an unemployment rate of 25%-50% among UK IT contractors.

David Rippon chairman of BCS IT directors group Elite, said, "There does not appear to be a skills shortage at the moment, but it is still cheaper for employers to get labour from abroad. The contractors are fighting a losing battle. Market pressures in long-term industrial trends such as this mean you have to either get better at what you do or become cheaper."

A PCG spokeswoman said, "The fast-track visa skills lists are outdated and do not reflect the current market. By their nature, the data which goes to compile it is historical and we are working to ensure they are correct.

"We have no objection to the issuing of visas where it is not to replace or undercut a UK contractor, and we are working with the Home Office to ensure the list of needed skills is up-to-date."

Methods of protest suggested on contractors' online forums include a disruption of the state opening of Parliament by unemployed contractors waving their CVs.

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