Contractors oppose immigrant pay proposal
Civil engineering contractors have voiced their opposition to a proposal that employers should have to pay a skills charge for every non-EU worker that they employ in the UK.
A report from the government’s Migration Advisory Committee recommends the use of higher salary thresholds to prioritise higher value, skilled migrants. It says that immigrant workers should be paid at least £30,000 and the minimum for non-EU nationals transferred within a company from overseas would be £41,500.
The idea is that companies in the UK would be incentivised to employ UK nationals ahead of immigrants from outside the EU.
The committee also recommends the introduction of an immigration skills charge 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, the report says. This charge would be £1,000 per year for each Tier 2 migrant employed by companies in the UK.
Committee chair Sir David Metcalf 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.”
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) is lobbying against the immigration skills charge plan. CECA chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “Our members are keen to deliver, upgrade and maintain the UK’s vital infrastructure networks using home-grown talent where possible.
“However, the introduction of this charge would penalise employers who hire skilled non-EU migrants. In the infrastructure sector, this could act as a drag on the ability of companies to hire the best people for the job.
“The success of the UK economy is reliant on the vital roads, rail, energy and communications networks CECA members deliver on a day-to-day basis.
“While our members share the government’s ambition of creating a more highly skilled UK workforce, is it self-defeating to hinder their ability to import skilled workers from abroad when absolutely necessary.”
The Adam Smith Institute think tank was equally certain that the Migration Advisory Committee's plan was a stinker. Its director Sam Bowman said: “This charge would be a poison pill for businesses. Good, skilled workers are crucial to the success of businesses, large and small. If British firms are to compete around the world they also need to be able to hire the best people from around the world.
“Charging them £1,000 per year and raising the earnings threshold, as the Migration Advisory Committee is proposing, would cripple British firms’ ability to hire the staff they need. It is simply a fantasy to assume that we can train enough British workers to do all the skilled jobs that we need when we need them.
“This would also mean much higher staffing costs for the NHS – 11% of all staff and 26% of doctors are non-British (though some of these are from the EU). It’s an anti-business, anti-British proposal and it underlines how wrong-headed the government’s overall immigration stance is.”
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This article was published on 20 Jan 2016 (last updated on 29 Jan 2016).