IT contractors have hit back at claims made by the prime minister that there are not enough skilled IT freelancers to fill vacant jobs in the UK. Professional Contractors Group chairman Simon Griffiths claims an increasing number of lower paid overseas workers are damaging the UK IT sector's competitive edge.
Tony Blair was responding to a question in the House of Commons from Conservative MP Alan Selous about a fivefold increase in the number of IT work permits granted to overseas workers.
Selous said: "Does the prime minister share the concern of a number of my constituents, who are well-qualified IT professionals, with the relevant skills, that 21,000 IT work permits are granted every year while 56,000 British IT professionals are looking for work?"
Blair denied there has been a fivefold increase in work permits and said approvals are only given to workers who can fill specific skills gaps in the UK.
He said: "Those who get work permits are specifically audited for their ability to get work in this country -- people want them to work for them -- and I do not think that it is right to set those people against those who are looking for work. Unemployment has fallen dramatically over the past few years and there are increasing employment opportunities for people in IT and other sectors as well."
In response the Professional Contractors Group (PCG) has launched a campaign for unemployed IT contractors to contact them so it can compile a dossier, which it will deliver to Downing Street as part of its campaign to get IT taken off the list for fast-track work visas.
PCG chairman Simon Griffiths claims tens of thousands of skilled IT contractors are out of work and that increasing numbers of lower paid overseas workers are damaging the UK IT sector's competitive edge.
He said, in a statement: "It is alarming if the prime minister is unaware of the fact that so many highly skilled IT freelancers are currently without work and we believe the long-term consequences of this will blunt the UK's competitive edge."
Unemployed contractors can contact the PCG by emailing their details to email@example.com.