The new work and pensions minister faced a barrage of criticism yesterday after she intimated that former MG Rover employees could go and work in Tesco supermarkets.
Margaret Hodge made the contentious remarks on a visit to Birmingha, where two months ago more than 6,000 people lost their jobs. Only 760 have so far found new employment.
During her visit she highlighted a new Tesco development and said: “I am saying that some of the jobs are in Tesco, and they will meet the needs of some of the unemployed and people looking for work in the district. There are also other jobs arising out of new industrial developments.”
When MG Rover collapsed, Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, said it would be unacceptable to replace those skilled jobs with ones in supermarkets.
He told the Times: “Some government ministers clearly don’t understand the strategic importance of the car industry and its skilled workforce. The T&G has not given up hope of saving MG Rover jobs and skills even if Margaret Hodge has.”
And one former Rover worker accused Hodge of living in “cloud cuckoo-land”.
But Hodge later defended her comments, telling the newspaper: “I did not say that MG Rover workers should apply for jobs at Tesco.
“In my interview I said that whilst we all feel immense empathy for those who lost their jobs, there are a range of new job opportunities coming to the West Midlands.
“One example is the new Tesco Extra at Walsgrave; another is The Green business park to be built just a few miles from MG Rover’s Longbridge factory.”