The Italian workers live in barges on the Grimsby docks. They are allegedly paid the national rate for the job – although deductions are taken for “bed and board”.
They are expected to work different hours to other workers on the site, including Saturdays.
Workers should demand equal pay and conditions for all. That would undercut the subcontractors and unite people against the bosses.
Total Oil, which manages the refinery, is a far better target for workers’ anger than migrant workers. The company makes £5 billion every three months.
Jacobs, the main contractor that has subcontracted work to the Italian firm, made £250 million in 2007.
There has always been a fight on construction sites to win unity among workers. And it is possible.
Many of the sites involved in the current dispute have not only had unofficial strikes before, but they have also taken action against racism and fought for the rights of migrant workers.
In March 2006 Hungarian and British construction workers on another power station construction site in Lincolnshire struck against the exploitation of migrant workers.
In 2007 a huge site in Milford Haven was shut down by an unofficial walkout of 300 workers against racist bullying.
The battle for jobs on the construction sites is important. But it will be won by pulling all workers into the fight against the bosses – not by scapegoating “foreign workers”.