The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has defended UK supermarkets against an accusation that they could jeopardise thousands of jobs in the food industry by using "aggressive" price-cutting tactics.

Speaking to the BBC at the weekend, union Unite accused retail giants of driving down suppliers' profits.

Unite's deputy general secretary Jack Dromey told the BBC: "The supermarkets have immense power but they do not exercise that power responsibly."

However, the BRC said the stores were just trying to get the best value for their customers.

Richard Dodd, spokesperson for the BRC told just-food that supermarkets negotiate with suppliers as a "normal" business practice, in which both sides are attempting to strike "the best deal they can".

"It's actually a myth that supermarkets are this huge power that behave irresponsibly. Actually, the majority of supermarket suppliers are major multinational businesses who are in the same sort of bargaining position that the supermarkets are in," Dodd said. "It's important that the supermarkets are robust in their negotiations because that is what's in the customers best interests."

Dodd admitted that jobs were under pressure in every sector, with the same true for food manufacturing, which he said has been "steadily falling for many years".

However, he added: "To make a connection between that [jobs] and the behaviour of supermarkets is plain wrong because actually what supermarkets are doing is providing access to high volume markets for suppliers. Whether we're talking about food manufacturers, farmers or processors, supermarkets are actually supporting huge numbers of UK jobs and not undermining them."

In August the Competition Commission published its final order to establish a code of practice governing the relationship between the country's grocery retailers and their suppliers.

Following last year's investigation into competition in the market, the Commission said that a strengthened code of practice was needed to provide a "clearer framework" for contractual agreements between retailers and suppliers.

The Commission has also asked the UK government to set up an ombudsman to resolve disputes between suppliers and retailers.