A decision by David Cameron not to attend a meeting about Derby train maker Bombardier is "unacceptable" according to city officials.
The company has announced plans to cut 1,400 jobs after it lost a £1.4bn government contract to German rivals.
The city council had demanded to meet the prime minister but he has told them they should meet Business Secretary Vince Cable instead.
Officials said only Mr Cameron had the authority to help them.
Derby City Council leader Phillip Hickson said: "David Cameron says he wants us to meet with Vince Cable the business secretary rather than him.
"That is completely unacceptable as far as we are concerned because only the prime minister has the power and authority to overturn the decision on Bombardier."
Last month, the government awarded the contract to build new carriages for the Thameslink rail route, between Bedford and Brighton, to German firm Siemens.
At the beginning of July, Bombardier announced plans to cut 446 permanent jobs and 983 temporary contract staff.
Unions representing workers at the factory met ministers on Wednesday to detail the impact of the job losses on the city and UK manufacturing in general.
But Transport Secretary Philip Hammond reiterated the government's position that it was legally bound by the decision.
At the same time, a task force to deal with the economic impact of the job losses has started work.
Margaret Gildea, who is heading the organisation, said: "Finding people jobs is incredibly important and we have to get people into jobs.
"But we are also looking at the supply chain and lessening the impact on the supply chain and the local community and getting funding for retaining."