UK: Sack a colleague - for 1,000 : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread Sack a colleague - for 1,000 Dan Atkinson, Mail on Sunday24 December 2000

Employees at one of Britain's fastest-growing and most respected companies, FI Group, are being offered a 1,000 bounty to name colleagues who could be replaced by cheaper workers from India. The plan, described by some outraged workers as a sack-a-colleague scheme, will plunge the Government's newly liberalised immigration rules into fresh controversy. The row will also be fuelled by the fact that FI is taking part in a pilot project run by the Department for Education and Employment allowing companies with foreign subsidiaries to issue their own British work permits to their overseas personnel, provided immigration regulations are obeyed. FI Group - the computer-services group whose chairwoman Hilary Cropper was the highest paid woman in 1999 with an income of 17.4m - launched the plan last week. It is on offer to full-time FI staff working on computer systems on site for major clients, including Barclays, Dixons and Tesco. FI staff are being asked to point out self-employed contractors working for FI on the same site who could be replaced by employees working for the company's Indian subsidiary, IIS Infotech. Each successful replacement will earn them 1,000. The group - whose corporate values include 'shared trust, commitment ... [and] flexibility' - unveiled the scheme to full-time workers at various sites. One of those present said: 'The employees' reaction was one of quiet disbelief. We were told those working on other accounts felt much the same way about it. The employees' view, and that of the local account management, was that none of them would be nominating contractors as it was not ethical.' A long-term FI contractor said his permanent colleagues feared they would be next to be replaced once FI had filled all self-employed posts with IIS personnel. FI denied this. The bonus plan comes just days after the Government announced further relaxation of immigration rules, scrapping some restrictions on foreign students wishing to return to Britain to work and liberalising quotas for overseas agricultural workers. Normally, a scheme such as the FI bonus plan would be illegal, but because those targeted for replacement are self-employed, FI might be able to argue with the Home Office that no sufficiently skilled British workers are available to fill their positions on a full-time basis. FI marketing director Tricia Gardom said the company was assuming contractors had made a lifestyle choice not to take permanent staff jobs. FI, engineering giant Rolls-Royce and banking group UBS are taking part in the Government's 'fast-track' pilot scheme for allowing foreign workers into the country. The DFEE said the three main rules were that the job had been advertised domestically without success; that the foreign employee must have the appropriate experience; and that the employee must receive more than the minimum wage. The advertising condition is waived in cases of jobs on the 'shortage list', including the sort of high-tech posts FI is seeking to fill from India. In general, however, all overseas workers must be occupying only jobs that cannot be filled by Britons. Gardom said of the British on-site contractors: 'These are not employees.' The DFEE said any company seeking to sack permanent workers to replace them with staff from overseas would be breaking the law. FI's systems integration strategy business unit maintains large-scale computer systems for major clients and up to a third of personnel are self-employed contractors. FI bought IIS in 1997. Gardom said last week FI had 'needed another resource base'. She added of any potential Indian replacements, 'they're bound to cost less than a contractor'. Another contractor said: 'I understand FI has to remain competitive, but I don't want to start drawing the dole just yet.' He said permanent staff had been taken to one side, away from their self-employed colleagues, to be told of the bonus offer, but that word had soon leaked out.

-- K (, December 29, 2000

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