The US food giant Kraft was last night accused of "deliberately misleading" 400 Cadbury workers after it confirmed it will close the UK confectionery company's manufacturing plant near Bristol in the wake of the £11.7bn take over of the Dairy Milk maker.
The original decision to close the factory in 2011 was taken by Cadbury, but the US company said yesterday its "original intent" was to "reverse the closure programme". This month, Cadbury's shareholders accepted the 850p a share, including a special dividend, takeover bid from Kraft.
Jennie Formby, the union's national officer for the food and drinks sector, expressed her "great anger" at the decision by Kraft yesterday that the closure of the Somerdale plant will go ahead as planned. She said: "Anger that Kraft deliberately misled many hundreds of decent men and women in Keynsham by saying that they would keep Somerdale open, despite Unite making very clear to them as early as September that this seemed impossible with the timeline for closure already seemingly set in stone."
She added: "Anger that Kraft's thirst for public approval during the most unpopular takeover we've seen in recent times drove the company to ignore those warnings and instead choose to state repeatedly that the site would not close. Anger that they have ignored repeated requests for meetings and discussions over the future, and anger that even as senior management were on site in Somerdale preparing to make their statement to our members, a Kraft director was assuring Unite that they had not made any decision yet but we would be the first to know."
Unite said the closure "sends the worst possible message to the 6,000 other Cadbury workers in the UK and Ireland".
Following talks with senior Cadbury management, Kraft said it had "reluctantly" accepted that plans to close the Somerdale manufacturing facility in Keynsham were too far advanced. The maker of Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Oreo cookies said the investment required to reverse the closure programme would be so significant that alternative plans were "not viable".
Irene Rosenfeld, the chief executive of Kraft, said: "In our recent talks with Cadbury senior management, it became clear that it is unrealistic to reverse the closure programme, despite our original intent to do so. While this is a difficult decision, we have moved quickly to end any further uncertainty."
She added: "We remain committed to investing in growing our combined business in the UK and will continue to support Cadbury's existing £30 million investment plans for the Bournville site. During the next six months we are conducting a strategic review of our combined manufacturing network. We continue to believe that the combination of Kraft Foods and Cadbury will accelerate growth to the long term benefit of our employees."