British Airways IT Staff claim Airline Tier 2 Visa Abuse

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As reported by on 18 March, 2016, British Airways (BA) IT staff accused the airline of abusing Tier 2 visa rules during a 45 minute protest opposing plans to outsource and offshore IT jobs to India.

GMB national officer, Mick Rix sent four letters to former Home Secretary and newly installed UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, arguing the case for IT jobs not to be outsourced to India and highlighting the potential security implications of doing so.  Rix claims that the Home Office has effectively ‘stonewalled’ the GMB.

BA recently hired the services of Tata Consultancy - an Indian multinational information technology service, consulting and business solutions company headquartered in Mumbai – to run the airline’s systems. BA’s IT staff say that they face the very real threat of being made redundant.

Sanwar Ali, Editor of News has the following comments to make:

The UK Immigration system and the tier 2 visa system is already very restrictive. Yet more restrictions on the Tier 2 visa system and Tier 2 Visa Sponsorship licence system would make life even more difficult for employers and migrants in the UK.  If there are any issues then these should be dealt with.  I would add that I think it unlikely that Tier 2 visa holders are only being paid £10,000 as suggested below.

Tier 2 visas and outsourcing to India

Rix of the GMB first raised the issue of outsourcing to India with the Home Office in January, 2016. He stated that ‘outsourcing systems overseas, some of which are vital to national security, was a concern for Britain’s future safety.’

According to a report published by The Register, in his initial letter, Rix asked the Home Office if it had ‘recorded instances of a failure in IT systems that led to passenger flights not being cross-referenced with the Home Office’s No Fly list, or if BA had failed to provide the Federation Aviation Administration in the US with cargo manifests for BA planes landing there’

Tier 2 visa Intracompany Transfer Visa issues

The GMB union representative went on to accuse BA of exploiting a loophole in the Tier 2 immigration system, which it is claimed enabled the airline to abuse Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visas and bring Tata Consultancy staff to Britain at the expense of local workers.

Rix said: “In this instance, not only are the jobs not advertised in the UK as a requirement for most Tier 2 visas, the Tier 2 visa will be used by the outsourced company to directly replace a job currently occupied by a UK worker who will have been made redundant.”

Following the first letter sent in January, the GMB the GMB staged a protest in February 2016 to oppose the plans. In March, Rix sent another letter requesting ‘acknowledgement of receipt, or a reply’ to the letter he had sent in January. Rix claimed he received no word of response.

In May and June, a further two letters were sent and went unanswered. It’s understood that Rix personally posted the same letter sent in January to Home Office premises just recently, to ensure it didn’t get ‘lost in the post.’

Job cuts not just in IT

Alex Cruz, BA’s CEO said that job cuts are not just occurring in IT, but across the airline. He informed staff that redundancy consultations were underway and would affect customer service staff (except cabin crew) and the company’s legal personnel.

In a memo to staff, Cruz said: “Over time we will review other support functions to see whether scope exists for further change. Changes are about much more than reducing people costs. BA is also removing the free snack passengers get on short haul flights. The company wants to chop €91m annually from its expense bill.”

GMB complaint to Home Affairs Select Committee

The GMB has raised the same issues with the Home Affairs Select Committee.  They have also added the issue of pay to the list of complaints.

In a letter to the Committee, Rix estimated that 80 percent of the work carried out by BA’s IT workforce will be outsourced to India, jobs that average salaries of £50,000 per year. He claims that Tata Consultancy staff will be paid just £10,000 per year, plus expenses of around £8,400.

Rix claims that such low pay ‘breaches rules which state such workers should be paid £24,800 of the ‘appropriate rate’, whichever is higher. In response, the Home Affairs Select Committee said it would ‘assesses the changes implemented by BA, plus the wider implications any changes might have.’

Its understood that any investigation carried out by the Committee will come too late for BA staff facing redundancy. Those targeted for redundancy have already been earmarked, with BA putting nearly 50 per cent of its app delivery team at risk of redundancy, including several project managers and business analysts.

It’s understood that up to 80 support roles were scrapped at the beginning of June. In addition several members of BA’s networks team have also lost their jobs.