Hodge tells sacked Rover workers: get a job at Tesco

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Margaret Hodge, the work and pensions minister, has come under fire from former MG Rover workers after she suggested the skilled workers should take jobs in a supermarket.

Margaret Hodge, the work and pensions minister, has come under fire from former MG Rover workers after she suggested the skilled workers should take jobs in a supermarket.

Mrs Hodge described the labour market in the West Midlands - where more than 5,000 people lost their jobs in May - as "healthy" and said a new branch of Tesco's could provide job opportunities for former MG Rover workers.

But her remarks were condemned as "the comments of an incompetent idiot masquerading as a minister" by Tony Woodley, the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union.

Mr Woodley had warned, when MG Rover went into administration in April that supermarket jobs were not adequate replacements for work at the Longbridge car plant and said his members had no intention of seeing the site turned into a retail park. Mr Woodley said that the Government should be concerned about the loss of skilled manufacturing jobs. "Some Government ministers clearly don't understand the strategic importance of the car industry and its skilled workforce. The TGWU has not given up hope of saving some of the Rover jobs and skills even if Margaret Hodge has."

One former Rover worker, Phil Hanks, said the remarks about Tesco jobs would not go down well among ex-Longbridge employees. "The jobs we had at Rover were highly skilled. Working at Tesco's would obviously be nothing like the same kind of work and the pay would be nowhere near what we used to earn."

Mr Hanks said he knew of at least one former Rover worker who had decided to join the local Tesco store.

Mrs Hodge made the comments in an interview with a local paper, the Wolverhampton Express & Star. When asked whether former Rover workers should apply for the 350 jobs to be created when a proposed new store opened in the area, she replied: "They will work all over the place ... I am saying some of the jobs are in Tesco and they will meet the needs of some of the unemployed and people looking for work. There are also other jobs arising out of new industrial developments."

She later modified her remarks to say she did not mean Rover workers should apply to Tesco's and pointed out that more than 1,000 former Rover employees had found work and another 2,000 were on training programmes.

Julie Kirkbride, the Conservative MP for Bromsgrove, branded Ms Hodge's comments "stupid" and said it was vital the valuable skills of the workers were retained. "What Margaret Hodge has said is particularly stupid and ill-informed. The whole point is we don't want to lose manufacturing jobs and skills from the West Midlands. It is important for the prosperity of the area that as many Rover workers as possible find employment using their existing engineering and other skills.

The Liberal Democrat trade and industry spokesman, Norman Lamb, said: "These ill-judged remarks by Margaret Hodge will be of little use to former Rover employees.

"These workers should be encouraged to find jobs where they can use their engineering and other skills.

"The Government should do all it can to create appropriate employment opportunities for these highly-trained workers who have been put out of work."

Comments