Cadbury workers attack Government amid demo over takeover

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The Independent Online

Cadbury workers today attacked the Government for not doing enough to prevent a takeover by US giant Kraft as they voiced fresh fears for their jobs.

Hundreds of workers staged a noisy protest in Westminster to call for guarantees for their jobs and conditions and said a law should now be introduced to prevent any more British "icons" being bought by a foreign firm.

One worker from the Bournville factory in Birmingham said she felt as though she had suffered a bereavement, while others warned that the name of the company could now be changed.

Kraft's five-month battle for control of Cadbury is set to be sealed later today when it unveils the level of support for its takeover offer.

Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, said at the demonstration: "This is a sad day for Britain. A world class sector of British excellence is being taken over by a debt-laden US company.

"We now want cast iron guarantees from Kraft about the future for workers, and we want the Government to act as guarantor.

"This must never happen again - the law must change to prevent hostile takeovers of successful British companies. We need a Cadbury law. We want Kraft to sit down with the unions, tomorrow, to discuss the future."

Deborah Matthews-Booth, who has worked at the Bournville plant for 33 years, wore her factory uniform as she joined the protest to voice her concern about jobs.

"This is a very sad day for the workers - we have been left in the dark about the future. It is like a bereavement. All the workers, from the office staff to the production workers, are worried about their jobs.

"The Government should have done more to stop this happening - they could have stepped in to help us."

Rob Phillips, who has worked at Cadbury's factory in Leominster for 27 years, said: "We are really disappointed at the way this has turned out. Cadbury's has been a good employer but there are real worries now about what will happen under new ownership.

"There will be no British manufacturing left soon. The Government had a big opportunity to do something but they didn't. They have let us down. This would never have happened in France or Germany."

Tracy Holliday, who has worked at the Bournville factory for 25 years, said: "We are a close community and we feel we have lost everything. We are all devastated."

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson will be meeting with Kraft management, including chief executive Irene Rosenfeld, tonight to discuss the company's plans for Cadbury.

"We understand the strength of feeling for this company across the UK, however the decision on the Kraft bid is a matter for the Cadbury shareholders," said an official at the Business Department.

One of the protesters was dressed in a gorilla outfit, banging a drum, to copy a Cadbury's TV advert, while the workers chanted Keep Our Jobs, and held up banners which read Don't Sell Us Out.

They later lobbied MPs seeking support for guarantees over their future.