Angry Cadbury workers lobbied MPs on Tuesday, entering parliament at precisely 1pm, the exact time that Cadbury shareholders voted in favour of a ‘highly-leveraged’ £11.5 billion takeover bid from American food processor, Kraft.
Last month, Unite warned that Kraft’s debts, estimated to be about £22 billion, meant there would be an ‘irresistible imperative’ to reduce costs by cutting jobs.
At Tuesday’s lobby of parliament, Unite demanded job guarantees for the 2,500 Cadbury workers nationally, while workers declared their intention to occupy Cadbury factories if that was necessary to defend their jobs.
Two coach-loads of workers travelled down to London from the Bourneville plant in Birmingham, while other workers came from Cadbury factories in other parts of the country.
Robin Rusgrove, 34-years a worker at Cadbury Marlbrook in Herefordshire, condemned the Brown government for allowing loans from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to be used to finance the Kraft takeover.
He said: ‘RBS that has lent Kraft £7 billion to fund the takeover.
‘Kraft’s past record of taking over other companies is not good.
‘They took over Terry’s chocolates and others and then closed them down.
‘We want the MPs to demand cast-iron guarantees on jobs and terms and conditions for all staff.’
Gerald Heapey, 37 years a Cadbury worker at Marlbrook, said: ‘As the taxpayer bailed out RBS to the tune of £20 billion and RBS lent Kraft £7 billion, Kraft are actually buying out Cadbury with our money.
‘The government should have stepped in and put a block on it, it wouldn’t happen in Japan, America, Germany or France.
‘I retire next year, so it doesn’t really effect me, but I’m worried for the ones coming up.
‘If it closed it would be devastation for Marlbrook and the surrounding area.’
Dave Glasper, Unite Convenor at Cadbury Marlbrook plant told News Line: ‘There are 120 Cadbury workers at Marlbrook and 200 workers in total, including contractors.
‘Kraft have been making noises about job security, but they’ve guaranteed absolutely nothing.
‘The worrying thing is that with the amount of debt they are carrying, they are going to slip.’
Steve McCabe, Labour MP for Hall Green, was one of several MPs who turned up at the lobby.
He told News Line: ‘I don’t think we intended the money that was used to bail out RBS to be used to fund the Kraft takeover of Cadbury. It was meant to fund British companies not this.
‘We are asking Kraft to make some guarantees and we are asking the government to ensure those guarantees mean something.
‘We can’t legislate for the Cadbury workers now, but I want Kraft to give us written guarantees and to negotiate with the union, which they are not yet doing.’
Unite National Officer for food and drink, Jennie Formby said: ‘When Unite first announced the bid in September we demanded they make commitments, now they must talk to us.
‘We need to get guarantees on jobs. We want cast-iron guarantees.’
Unite Deputy General Secretary Jack Dromey told reporters: ‘Our fear is that the Kraft takeover is not in the national interest, and in the months of this hostile takeover process, we have heard nothing from Kraft to calm fears that it is in the interest of the Cadbury workforce either.
‘Instead, the fate of manufacturing workers in Terry’s of York, who found that Kraft ownership saw their plant close, weighs heavily on the minds of the Cadbury workforce.’
He added: ‘The government must secure meaningful pledges from Kraft, and police them so that Kraft cannot again walk away from a UK workforce.
‘Ministers must make it abundantly clear that closures and mass redundancies will not be accepted by the British government or the British people.’
Dromey was shouted down when, speaking to the lobbyists, he said: ‘This is a sad day for British industry, when a debt-laden American company takes over what is a British institution’.
‘Why are we letting it happen then?’ the Cadbury workers replied.
Dromey continued: ‘Never should the law permit it to happen again. We need a Cadbury law.’
Dromey and Formby were then flanked by local Labour MPs in a line-up for the press, drawing shouts from the back of: ‘What about the workers?’.
This rapidly became a chant and the line-up was transformed into a line-up of Cadbury workers expressing their anger, militancy and determination.
Other workers spoke to News Line: ‘Rita Acharya, 30-years a worker at Bourneville, said: ‘We are so worried about our jobs, pensions and security.’
Eamonn Kenna, Unite member and 16-years a Cadbury worker at Bournville, said: ‘The company has been there for 175 years and it’s our responsibility to safeguard the jobs for future generations.
‘This deal is so debt-laden that we are very concerned about the future. We mustn’t let it to go down on our watch.’
Eileen Jackson, 32 years a Cadbury worker at the Bourneville factory, told News Line: ‘It’s heartbreaking. Kraft promised Terry’s their jobs were safe and then closed them.
‘Ex-Kraft workers have warned us the company’s only interested in the gum, not chocolate.
‘We’re working at the factory now, and if they try to close it, we’ll occupy it to keep it open.’
21-year-old David Newbroke said: ‘The factory must be occupied if they try to close it. It’s the heart of Bourneville.’
Roger Thompson, a worker in the easter egg department and 17-years at Bourneville, was carrying a giant Cadbury’s Dairy Milk bar.
He told News Line: ‘We want our jobs safe. The Kraft takeover should have been stopped.’
Marian Edmonds, 40 years at Bourneville, said: ‘The government should have intervened.
‘We, as the taxpayer, saved RBS and now RBS are giving the money to Kraft to sell our jobs. It’s disgusting.’
Lorraine Ronan agreed: ‘It’s absolutely disgusting. We’ve got to fight or we’ll be left with no industry, nothing for the future.’