Unions have accused business secretary Peter Mandelson of “missing the point” following his promise to review skills shortages in engineering and construction

Mandelson’s review, which will take about four months, was announced on Monday in response to recent wildcat strikes over the use of foreign labour. It will examine ways to make British industry more competitive.

But unions said the business secretary was “running away from the real problem and inventing a new one”.

Peter Mandelson

Kathleen Walkershaw, European officer of the GMB union, said: “He’s addressing completely the wrong areas. It’s not about skills shortages. It’s about the exclusion of British workers who already have the skills.”

Neil Willoughby, Unite regional officer, agreed: “If he wants the industry to improve, UK workers need to be given the chance in these jobs to train the future workforce.”

Meanwhile, an independent report by employment relations organisation Acas ruled that oil company Total did not break EU laws by employing Italian workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in Lincolnshire, one of the sites of strike action. However, Acas admitted “attempts to check how level the playing field is can be difficult”.

The GMB confirmed it was considering sanctioning an official strike ballot in response to claims UK workers were having their terms and conditions cut.