The chairman of Cadbury has admitted that job cuts at the 186-year-old chocolate maker are an "inevitability" following its £11.9bn takeover by Kraft Foods.
Roger Carr confirmed that job losses were likely at the company's head office in Uxbridge, west London, adding that the decision to accept Kraft's improved offer had been a "bittersweet moment".
Kraft likewise hinted at redundancies, saying the takeover had the potential to bring "substantial further cost savings". The American firm has given no assurances over the future of the rest of Cadbury's UK employees, but said it wants to invest in its Bournville site in Birmingham as well as retaining production at the Somerdale factory in Keynsham, near Bristol.
The agreement has provoked anger from members of the Cadbury family. Felicity Loudon, great-great-granddaughter of the company's founder, described the deal as a "horror story".
She said: "Kraft won't understand the history and quality of the company. Kraft will have to asset-strip to afford this. They will cut corners, they will sell out. To me they are a plastic cheese company and this is the jewel in the crown."
Earlier, Gordon Brown said he was "determined" to secure British jobs at the company, which has Dairy Milk among key brands and employs 45,000 people in 60 countries, including 4,500 staff at eight sites in the UK. "We are determined that the levels of investment that take place in Cadbury in the United Kingdom are maintained, and we are determined that, at a time when people are worried about their jobs, that jobs in Cadbury can be secure," the Prime Minister said.
The American firm, which owns hundreds of brands including Philadelphia cheese, Kenco coffee and Oreo cookies, won the support of the Cadbury board after making a revised offer worth around 840p per share. It will have to borrow £7bn to finance the deal.
Having dismissed previous offers as "derisory", Cadbury said yesterday it would recommend that its shareholders back the improved bid. If accepted, the deal will end the company's long history of independence which dates back to 1824. The shareholders have until 2 February to accept the offer.
Kraft said it hoped to create a "global confectionery leader" through the takeover, which it described as a "compelling opportunity" for the chocolate manufacturer's shareholders. "We have great respect for Cadbury's brands, heritage and people. We believe they will thrive as part of Kraft Foods," said Irene Rosenfeld, the company's chairman and chief executive.
However, one worker outside the Bournville plant, who did not want to be named, said yesterday: "Nobody really knows what is going on, or what this might mean in terms of job losses, but inside that factory there are a lot of people who are very, very worried about the future."
Critics of the deal also pointed to Kraft's earlier takeover of British chocolate manufacturer Terry's as evidence that it is unconcerned about retaining jobs in this country. After Terry's was bought by Kraft in 1993 restructuring led to its manufacturing plant in York closing after almost 70 years and production being moved to Belgium, Sweden, Slovakia and Poland.
Jennie Formby from the Unite union said its members were concerned about Kraft's debt levels. "The sad truth is that when they have to pay down that debt, the soft option is jobs and conditions," she said.