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MAC Proposals Can Help BA Workers

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Clamp Down On Abuse Of Tier 2 Visas For Third Party Contracting A Step In The Right Direction For 900 BA Jobs At Risk Says GMB

These jobs are at risk due to outsourcing specialist IT workers to TCS and replacing them with workers recruited overseas and flown into the UK on tier 2 visas says GMB.

GMB, the union for staff at BA, commented on the recommendations from The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) that the Government uses higher salary thresholds to prioritise higher value, skilled migrants within the Tier 2 visa route and that third-party contracting should become a separate route under Tier 2. See notes to editors for copy of press release from MAC dated 19th January and copies of previous GMB press releases on BA jobs at risk from third-party contracting.

Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for members at BA, said “These MAC recommendations are a step in the right direction.

The minimum salary threshold to stop businesses like British Airways (BA) abusing the Tier 2 route to sack workers in the UK and replace them with lower paid workers from overseas needs to looked at further. A more sensible threshold should be around £41,500.

GMB are seeking a meeting with MAC to put forward our views and also to present evidence where UK employers like BA are currently abusing the arrangements on Tier 2 visas.

As things stand members employed in the IT department at BA are to be replaced with next spring with workers recruited overseas and flown into the UK on tier 2 visas. This is a direct result of the BA decision to outsource its 900 specialist IT jobs to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

There are around 900 jobs at risk based at BA HQ in Harmondsworth, the BA's call centre in Newcastle, and at other locations in Manchester, Cardiff and Scotland.

In December GMB wrote to the Migration Advisory Committee and Home Office asking them to clampdown on such abuse of tier 2 visas by BA and TCS. Last week (13th January) GMB also met MPs in the House of Commons to make representations on this.

The MAC is right to recommend that third-party contracting should become a separate route under Tier 2.

GMB also welcome MAC recognising the specific situation in the IT industry. We urge the government to undertake the review into IT and Tier 2 visas with the greatest urgency and to enforce a resident labour market test to third party contractors with immediate effect. This test would require jobs to be awarded to overseas workers only if a suitable candidate cannot be found in the UK.

Bert Schouwenburg, GMB International Officer, added, "Should the Government sign up to free trade agreements being negotiated on their behalf in secret by the EU, such as the Transfer in Services Agreement (TISA), it will have forfeited all rights to regulate the supply of labour from overseas, regardless of existing domestic legislation.

If TISA is agreed and comes into force migrant workers would not be subject to UK labour laws, thus undermining hard won terms and conditions, leading to a race to the bottom.

MEPs voted yesterday to continue with TISA, a deal that would effectively remove Parliament's ability to decide who was eligible to work in the UK and on what terms.”

End

Contact: Mick Rix 07971 268 343 or Gary Pearce 07850 036 952 or Stephanie Attwood 07921 473 264 or GMB press office 07921 289880

Notes to editors

1 Copy of press release from the Migration Advisory Committee 19 January 2016

MIGRATION ADVISORY COMMITTEE PUBLISHES RECOMMENDATIONS TO TIGHTEN SKILLED WORKER VISA ROUTES TO REDUCE NON-EU MIGRATION

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has today (Tuesday, 19 January) recommended the Government uses higher salary thresholds to prioritise higher value, skilled migrants within the Tier 2 visa route.

The MAC was commissioned by the Government to advise on a number of potential changes to Tier 2 to address concerns about the rising number of migrants in that route and reliance on them to fill shortages in the labour market.

In its report, Review of Tier 2: Balancing migrant selectivity, investment in skills and impacts on UK productivity and competitiveness, the Committee found that using price would be the most effective way to prioritise and target the specialist and scarce skills that non-EU migrants bring to the UK as well as to address the potential disincentives to up-skill the domestic labour market.

As part of its recommendations, the MAC suggests increasing the existing minimum salary threshold for all Tier 2 migrants, introducing an Immigration Skills Charge for employers and tightening the Intra-Company transfer route to prioritise highly specialist staff.

In order to restrict volumes of Tier 2 migrants, the MAC proposes raising the overall minimum salary threshold from the current £20,800 to £30,000. This level of pay is a better representation of the higher qualifications now required to be eligible for this route. The Committee recognises that some migrant workers, mostly in the public sector, are paid under the threshold and suggests a phased increase in the salary thresholds. A lower threshold, set at £23,000, should be offered to graduates.

The MAC’s analysis showed Tier 2 migrants are generally paid more than their UK counterparts, supporting the view that migrants in this route bring scarce skills that are of high value to the UK. However, the analysis found that within some occupations - primarily in the public sector – migrants are often paid significantly less than similar UK workers, sometimes due to financial pressures.

As part of its recommendation to make the Tier 2 route more selective, the MAC strongly supports the introduction of an Immigration Skills Charge (ISC). This will incentivise employers to reduce their reliance on migrant workers and encourage them to invest in training UK employees. This charge should be in addition to raising salary thresholds.

While the level of the ISC is a matter for the Treasury, the MAC suggests that an upfront charge of £1,000 per year for each Tier 2 migrant employed by companies in the UK. This could provide £250m for skills funding annually and have a significant impact on employer behaviour, according to the MAC.

The MAC has also recommended an overhaul of Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route to reflect a divergence in the use of the route. The conventional use of the route, where a small number of highly specialised staff are brought into the UK to impart their skills or gain experience, was found to be of significant benefit to the UK. However, the route is also being used to bring in migrants to service third-party contracts, predominantly within the IT sector, where the benefits are less clear cut. Third-party contracting cuts companies’ IT costs but does not sufficiently contribute to the stock of IT skills within the UK.

Therefore, the MAC has recommended that third-party contracting should become a separate route under Tier 2. In order to ensure the route is used by highly specialised migrants, the salary threshold should also increase to £41,500, an effective proxy for senior managers and specialists.

Professor Sir David Metcalf CBE, Chair of the MAC, said:

“Skilled migrant workers make important contributions to boosting productivity and public finances, but this should be balanced against their potential impact on the welfare of existing UK residents.

“Raising the cost of employing skilled migrants via higher pay thresholds, and the introduction of an Immigration Skills Charge, should lead to a greater investment in UK employees and reduce the use of migrant labour.”

In its report, the MAC recommends

  • The minimum salary threshold should rise to £30,000 to reflect the current degree-level skill requirement for Tier 2. As the typical pay of migrants in some occupations, such as healthcare and teaching, is below the new proposed threshold the MAC recommends this new minimum is phased in.
  •  An Immigration Skills Charge (ISC) should be introduced, to act as a skills levy on firms using migrant labour. The revenue accumulated from the charge could be used to help raise skills in the domestic jobs market through training, and decrease the demand for migrant labour.
  • That use of the Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route for third-party contracting be moved into a separate route and a higher salary threshold at £41,500 be applied.
  • There should be no automatic sunsetting of jobs on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL), but employers should provide sufficient evidence when an occupation has been on the list for a number of years.
  • They do not recommend that Tier 2 (General) is restricted only to occupations on an expanded shortage occupation list.
  •  They do not recommend restricting automatic work rights for dependents.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. For more information, or to request an interview with Sir David Metcalf, contact Jennifer Nolan on 020 7035 3535.

2. A full copy of the report is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications?departments%5B%5D=migration-advisory-committee

3. Tier 2 is the primary route for economic migration to the UK. It consists of four routes: Tier 2 (General), Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer), Tier 2 (Minister of Religion) and Tier 2 (Sportsperson). The MAC has not examined the minister of religion or sportsperson routes as part of this report.

4. The Tier 2 (General) applies to two categories of skilled workers: those coming to fill jobs advertised under the Resident Labour Market Test (RLMT) and those coming to take up jobs on the Government’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL). Since April 2015, all Tier 2 (General) migrants must earn an annual salary of at least £20,800. There are also occupation-specific minimum thresholds and where these are greater than £20,800, they must provide the minimum salary requirement for that occupation.

5. The Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer) route allows multinational companies to transfer key personnel from their overseas branches to the UK for temporary periods, rather than to fill permanent UK vacancies. There are four categories of user of the route: long-term staff (transferring into the UK for up to five years), short-term staff (transferring into the UK for up to 12 months), graduate trainee (transferring into graduate trainee programmes for specialist roles) and skills transfer (transferring into the UK to gain skills and knowledge needed to perform their role overseas, or to pass on skills to UK colleagues). As with Tier 2 (General), there is an overall minimum salary threshold for each sub route: £41,500 for long-term staff, and £24,800 for short-term staff, graduate trainees and skills transfer routes.

6. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) advises the government on migration issues. It is a non-statutory, non-time-limited, non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Home Office. The MAC is made up of a chair and four other independent economists, who have been appointed under rules relating to public appointments laid down by the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA). Additionally, the Commission for Employment and Skills and the Home Office are represented on the Committee.

2 Copy of GMB press release dated 12 January 2016

Tuesday 12th January 2016

GMB Meet MPs On Wed 13th Jan To Halt British Airways Plan To Outsource Jobs And Abuse Tier 2 Visa System

These latest developments should worry MPs and the government that UK security interests are being handed over glibly to a foreign national company says GMB

GMB representatives will tomorrow (13th January) call on MPs in the House of Commons to make representations to British Airways (BA) over plans to outsource its 900 specialist IT jobs to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

Last month GMB wrote to the Migration Advisory Committee and Home Office asking them to clampdown on abuse of tier 2 visas by BA and TCS following the outsourcing of the jobs. See notes to editors for copy of GMB press release dated 22nd December 2015.

There are around 900 jobs at risk, with BA IT colleagues based at various locations in the UK, at BA Headquarters at Waterside in Harmondsworth, West London, BA's call centre in Newcastle, and at other locations in Manchester, Cardiff and Scotland.

Mick Rix GMB National Officer for Civil Aviation said "GMB asked for a meeting at a senior level with BA at the end of last year. This was to discuss matters of concern to members in private about reports that safety and security lapses apparently took place on BA work already undertaken by TCS. BA regrettably declined to meet.

There are many serious matters of concern with the company proposal, not least the devastating economic impact these job losses will have on GMB members, their families and the communities where they live. There are also concerns relating to the continued security of the airline operations, UK national security, along with flights intended for the US.

BA IT staff carry out important reporting work to the UK Home Office and the US Federal authorities on required national security matters, regarding passenger and cargo lists for flights coming into and out of the UK and for fights destined to the US.

It is a shame that BA did not want to meet us privately where we could have discussed information we have obtained. I would have preferred to have had those discussions in private. We are faced with no other option due to BA’s failure to meet with senior GMB officials that we intend to brief and advise MPs on our concerns.

GMB believe these latest developments should worry MPs and the government that UK security interests are being handed over glibly to a foreign national company.

I find it incredible and of serious concern that in these times of very heightened security measures, due to the threat by terrorists to civil aviation flights, that the transfer of important national security reporting work, currently operated by BA IT staff, is to be offshored to TCS in India, so that BA and IAG can save a couple of bucks.”

End.

3 GMB press release dated December 22, 2015

GMB Call On Migration Advisory Committee And Home Office To Clampdown On Abuse Of Visas By BA And Tata Consultancy Service

As things stand members employed in the IT department at British Airways are to be replaced with next spring with workers recruited in India and flown into the UK on tier 2 visas says GMB.

GMB, the union for staff at British Airways, commented on a report that Migration Advisory Committee are pushing for a clampdown on visas for skilled workers from outside the EU. See notes to editors for copy of report in Financial Times December 20, 2015

Mick Rix, GMB National officer, said “This clampdown on abuses of the tier 2 visas is long overdue.

As things stand GMB members employed in the IT department at British Airways are to be replaced from next spring with workers recruited in India and flown into the UK on tier 2 visas.

This is after BA outsources sections of its IT department to Tata Consultancy Services. GMB understand that Tata intend to abuse the tier 2 visas to move their own staff from India to replace our members.

GMB intend to write to Sir David Metcalf chairman of Migration Advisory Committee and the Home Office asking them to clampdown on abuses by BA and Tata Consultancy Services.”

4 Copy of report in Financial Times December 20, 2015

Plan for UK visa clampdown threatens tech companies

Gonzalo Viña, Public Policy Reporter

The UK government’s immigration advisers are pushing for a clampdown on visas for skilled workers from outside the EU, in a move that would be a blow to global technology companies that operate in Britain.

The Home Office is looking at ways to tighten the rules for “tier 2” visas that apply to internal company transfers, and the Migration Advisory Committee is expected to recommend focusing on big international businesses that move staff to projects in different countries.

Sir David Metcalf, chairman of the MAC, is due to present his proposals to the Home Office this week and his report will be made public towards the end of January. The committee would not comment on his recommendations.

Among the options Sir David is understood to be considering, is a skills levy on employers recruiting from outside the EU. While he may hold back from proposals to raise the minimum salary to qualify for a visa or to limit dependants’ right to work, companies are worried about any plans that will limit their ability to transfer employees.

Four of the top five short and long-term intra-company transfers in the year ending in March were in IT, telecoms or software development, according to Home Office data.

By country, India is top, accounting for 31,093 sponsored skilled visa applications in the year to September, followed by the US with 6,533. Companies including Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services from India and Accenture and IBM from the US are likely to be hardest hit.

India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies said it had engaged in the public consultation and had stressed the importance of tier 2 visas.

“These skilled workers make a valuable contribution to the UK economy by delivering specialist technical knowledge and skills to British companies,” the association said.

“This is not something that we would support,” said Emanuel Adam, head of policy at British American Business. “Restricting tier 2 in any way will have a negative impact on companies and organisations assessing business opportunities in the UK.”

Controlling immigration has become one of the defining issues of David Cameron’s government and is a key factor in negotiations to reshape Britain’s relationship with the rest of the EU.

But efforts to reduce the number of people coming from Europe — often cited as a worry by voters — remain subject to the unpredictable outcome of negotiations with the rest of the bloc.

That has left the government looking to reduce workers from outside the EU in order to bring net migration down to the promised “tens of thousands” from themost recent figure of 336,000.

“We have to be extremely cautious, as this will have a very significant impact — we must not to cut off our nose to spite our face,” said Jurga McCluskey, head of immigration at consultancy Deloitte.

The number of tier 2 visas — including extensions, visas for dependants and new visas — increased by almost a third to 151,659 between 2009 and 2014, according to the Home Office. More than twice as many visas are granted for intra-company transfers as for other skilled workers with a job offer.

Matthew Percival, head of employment law at the Confederation of British Industry, the country’s biggest employers’ group, said: “The net migration target remains a blunt instrument that is not fit for purpose and should have been scrapped long ago.”

The restrictions would face stiff opposition from George Osborne, chancellor, and could sour relations with India. Last month, both countries signed a joint statement agreeing “to facilitate the temporary movement of skilled personnel” in the IT industry.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs committee of MPs, said last week the cap was “counter-productive” because it did little to reduce net migration but made it hard to find staff. Tony Haque, immigration lawyer at Baker & McKenzie, said the curbs might simply result in more workers being brought in from the EU.

Julia Onslow-Cole, the head of PwC’s global immigration practice, said Sir David was likely to recommend differentiating between traditional forms of intra-company transfers and those used mainly by the IT sector.

She also expected the committee to favour a skills levy that raises money for the exchequer, instead of increasing the salary threshold. Sir David is looking to use this money to fund apprenticeships.

The Home Office had no immediate comment.

 

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