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The Professional Contractors Group campaign over the issuing of fast track visas is continuing to bear fruit. The contractor's Group has now demonstrated to the Government that there is no skill shortage in IT skills, C/C++ and Javascript and, as a result, these skills have been removed from the fast track visa list. (This list is known as the Shortage Occupation List).


This follows on from the PCG's success in March when Oracle Database Administrators was removed from the list and last year when other IT skills, including programming languages, Java, Perl and Visual Basic were also removed from the list.


The PCG, which represents the interests of 14,000 small businesses in the knowledge-based sector, became a member of the Government's Skills Sector Panel for IT in autumn last year. The panel advises what skills in the IT sector are in short supply and would be eligible for the issuing of fast track visas to overseas workers to meet a perceived need in the market-place. However, the PCG has demonstrated that many parts of the list are out-of-date and in other cases, the scheme has been open to misuse and abuse.


The PCG presented the results of its recent survey at the recent Skill Sector Panel meeting to show that many of its members possessed the specific skills which were considered to be in short supply, yet were unable to find available work on contracts. As a result, C/C++ and Javascript were both removed from the list. Javascript had been included on the list as a skill for senior workers only, it was linked to Java. The PCG explained that the similarities between Java and Javascript end at the name and that Javascript should never have been on there as a skill in its own right.


Philip Ross, PCG Policy advisor, said: "We are pleased that the skills shortage occupation list has been updated to remove C/C++. This is something we have been lobbying for since the New Year and we have presented evidence at the last two Sector Panel meetings. The list is a better shape now as a result of our lobbying and the information supplied to us by contractors. Thanks are due to the contractors who filled in our skills survey and so provided us with the hard evidence we needed. There is still much to do, and we will be producing evidence to demonstrate that other skills are not in short supply and should also be removed.


"Although we welcome this move for C/C++, we still believe that the whole issue is being looked at the wrong way round. It would better reflect the reality of the situation if a case had to be made to prove a particular skill should be on the list and was in genuine short supply. At the moment, we are having to demonstrate that a skill should be removed from the list by showing that there are hundreds of people out of work or out of contract in the UK who possess that particularly skill.


"We are also concerned about how foreign firms are able to use other facets of the scheme to enable them to transfer jobs and projects abroad more easily. The aim of the scheme is to support British industry and jobs, but it is actually contributing to job losses and is undermining our knowledge economy.


"We are also working with Work Permits UK to identify companies that are abusing the work permits scheme, whether bringing people via the shortage occupation list or using bogus intra-company transfers to replace UK workers. That is illegal and the PCG is working closely with Work Permits UK to help them crack down on this."


The PCG co-ordinated the collection of evidence for the Government to demonstrate that these skills were no longer in short supply by surveying the contractor community through the PCG's website. It received hundreds of individual case studies, which supported its claims.


The PCG is continuing to run two surveys about fast track visas here: http://www.pcgroup.org.uk/ftv/index.html

The first survey is on possible abuses of the system; and http://www.pcgroup.org.uk/ftv/skillssurvey.html on specific skills on the skill shortage list.



Notes to Editors:


1.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 many issues affecting the knowledge-based sector.


2. 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 PCG´s primary resource, providing fast, effective communication. It has a membership of more than 14,000 small businesses in the knowledge-based sector, mainly IT and engineering.


3. 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.


4. The 'fast track visa scheme' is the popular name for the scheme where foreign workers with skills on the shortage occupation list are issued work permits. These are TIER 1 issues, the popular definition also covers TIER 2 issues where firms advertise a post but cannot find anyone with a suitable skill and then apply on this basis to bring in workers from abroad and also intra company transfers.


5. Work Permits UK is the government agency responsible for the issue of Work Permits and controls what skills are on the short occupation list. The full list is here: http://www.workpermits.gov.uk/default.asp?pageid=2595

6. For further information about the PCG's position on fast track visas, see press notice 03/02 http://www.pcgroup.org.uk/press_pn0302.html

7. For further information about the PCG: http://www.pcgroup.org.uk


For media enquiries and a photograph of Philip Ross and Gurdial Rai from the PCG recently presenting evidence of fast track visa abuses at the Home Office contact:


Susie Hughes
020 7462 7955
susie@susiehughes.co.uk

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