Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has come under fire from the unions after saying the unemployed should "get on a bus" to look for jobs.
Union leaders said the comment was similar to Lord Tebbit's 1981 suggestion that workless should "get on their bikes".
Len McCluskey of the Unite union, said: "It is clear that the Tory nasty party has never gone away."
Mr Duncan Smith made the remark during an interview with the BBC's Newsnight.
He said people had to be ready to move out of struggling areas because there were jobs available.
"The truth is there are jobs. They may not be absolutely in the town you are living in. They may be in a neighbouring town."
He said Merthyr Tydfil, in Wales, was an example of a place where people had become "static" and "didn't know if they got on the bus an hour's journey they'd be in Cardiff and they could look for the job there".
He said: "We need to recognise the jobs often don't come to you. Sometimes you need to go to the jobs."
But Mr McClusky, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, said: "While Iain Duncan Smith has been presented as the Government's Mister Nice, he cannot shake off the vicious Tory determination to make the poor suffer.
"Can the ConDem coalition really believe that the unemployment being created by savage government cuts will be fixed by having people wandering across the country with their meagre possessions crammed into the luggage racks of buses.
"Iain Duncan Smith offers us a 19th-century vision of sturdy beggars and the undeserving poor, while the bankers and their chums continue to rake in millions and dodge taxes. The only polite reaction to all this is to say: shame on you."
The Public and Commercial Services union, the biggest civil service union, also suggested that Mr Duncan Smith, who has earned cross-party praise for his work on social exclusion and is the architect of ambitious reforms to the welfare system, had revealed his true colours with the remark.
A PCS spokesman said: "Duncan Smith has been trying to tread the road to redemption in the nation's eyes, reinventing himself as a caring Conservative.
"Well it didn't take long for the mask to slip and for him to reveal himself as a Tebbit clone with this disgusting insult that is part of the coalition's attempt to cast vulnerable members of our society as the new deserving and undeserving poor.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Douglas Alexander also reached for the Norman Tebbit comparison, accusing the former Conservative leader of retreating into the party's "comfort zone of blame and disdain".
"Iain Duncan Smith still doesn't seem to understand that to move people from welfare into work requires there to be work available.
"The Conservatives are cutting jobs, cutting help for childcare, cutting working tax credit that makes work pay and even cutting support for buses."