As construction jobs tumble in the credit crisis, thousands of U.K. workers downed tools recently to protest the use of foreign crews on a $290-million refinery project on England’s east coast. Unofficial supportive action spread from the Lindsey refinery in North Killingholme to unrelated powerplants and even the Sellafield nuclear fuel facility. Underlying the dispute at the oil refinery, owned by Total U.K. Ltd., are growing concerns that Europe’s free market is working against British workers’ interests. What triggered the unofficial Lindsey strike was December’s arrival of a Sicilian specialty firm on the refinery’s desulfurization project. Main contractor Jacobs Engineering
The market is generally healthy and steadily growing, and margins are up for large specialty contractors. Further, advances in design tools and owner demand for collaboration are giving subcontractors a seat at the table early on in projects.