Construction unions are to ask the government to extend gangmaster legislation to the construction industry.

The T&G’s call, which is being backed by other unions, is intended to prevent the exploitation of immigrant workers.

The unions want a register of gangmasters and an official register of migrant workers in the construction sector.

The licensing would be based on the 2004 Gangmasters’ Act, which was introduced to legitimise migrant working in the agricultural sector in the wake of the Morecambe Bay disaster.

The union hopes that licensing will stop workers being forced into bogus self-employment rackets. Bob Blackman, the T&G’s national officer, said: “Workers arrive here and don’t even know what the minimum rate of pay should be. Many end up living on the street because they don’t have the money to get out.”

Blackman’s comments follow the publication of a report by Homeless Link, which suggests one in seven homeless people in London are Polish migrants.

Tony Blair devoted much of his address at the TUC in Brighton this week to backing the unions over reforming conditions for migrant workers, rather than introducing further restrictions to entry. Blair said: “Migrant workers have filled many stubborn vacancies … [including] in construction. But we need to be vigilant about the rights of migrants themselves.”

Meanwhile, UCATT and the T&G were expected to win support for a motion for an industry-wide occupational health service in a vote on Thursday, after Building went to press.