Trade union Amicus has accused employers of using the work permit system to hire low-cost workers, rather than invest in training UK IT professionals.
Employers are required to ensure that pay and conditions offered to overseas IT workers are at least equal to those for a UK national doing the same work. But the union said Home Office figures revealed that nearly 15% of work permit applications sampled were in breach of minimum pay rates.
"Our workplace representatives are reporting increased misuse and, in some cases, what they regard as blatant abuse, resulting in redundancies," said Amicus national officer Peter Skyte.
The Association of Technology Staffing Companies (Atsco), which represents recruitment firms, said the Home Office lacked the resources to vet work permit applications thoroughly.
"With the Home Office inundated with applications, the concern is that some organisations are only paying lip service to the legal requirements," said Atsco chief executive Ann Swain.
The Home Office defended the system, saying that it did not allow firms to bring cheap labour into the UK. "Permits are issued subject to an employee having essential knowledge specific to that company," it said.Comment on this article: firstname.lastname@example.org