TUC general secretary Brendan Barber has called on controversial new business secretary Peter Mandelson to focus on protecting jobs.
Mandelson, who twice resigned from the cabinet under former prime minister Tony Blair, made a shock return last week to replace John Hutton, who moved to defence in the reshuffle precipitated by Rutyh Kelly’s departure.
As British commissioner of the European Union for Trade, Mandelson was active in preserving Britain’s opt-out from the Working Time Directive and pursuing other employer-friendly policies.
Union leaders are said to be fuming over the appointment, and Barber insisted he would ensure workers’ interests were protected.
“At this time of massive economic uncertainty, when millions fear for their jobs and living standards, it is vital that their interests are central to government concerns,” he said.
“I look forward to working with Peter Mandelson, as he takes up this crucial post, to help ensure that happens.”
David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said Mandelson “clearly understands business”.
He added: “His work in Europe and involvement in global trade discussions also mean that he knows where the UK fits within the international context. We look forward to working with him in these challenging economic times.”