Politicians helpless in face of Kraft ‘betrayal’

By Alex Stevenson

Peter Mandelson and Ken Clarke appeared resigned to the loss of 400 jobs at Cadbury’s Somerdale factory, despite accusing new owner Kraft of reneging on past promises.

The American food and drink firm’s takeover of Cadbury last week has been swiftly followed by news that it intends to go ahead with Cadbury’s pre-existing closure plans.

Both Lord Mandelson and Mr Clarke indicated they believed they had reached agreement with Kraft’s managers that they would not shut the Somerdale plant.

Yesterday, however, Kraft confirmed the closure would go ahead aft er all.

“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,” Kraft’s chairman and chief executive Irene Rosenfeld explained.

“While this is a difficult decision, we have moved quickly to end any further uncertainty.”

The move has sparked anger from union members who claimed Kraft had promised to defer the closure during its drawn-out takeover battle.

“The ink is barely dry on the takeover and a promise made to the Cadbury workers has been broken,” Unite’s national food officer for food and drink Jennie Formby said.

“Promises were made to the Somerdale workers which it seems Kraft had no intention of fulfilling, and which appear now to have been a cynical attempt to curry favour with the British public during what was an extremely unwelcome and unpopular takeover.

“This is not just a tragedy for this workforce but is also sending a very worrying message to the rest of the Cadbury workforce.”

Lord Peter Mandelson reacted with frustration to the latest news.

“This will confirm the fears of those who felt the takeover would result in job losses. Kraft gave me no indication of this announcement when we met last week,” he said.

“It is for the company now to prove the worth of their other statements about investing in the UK.”

Mr Clarke issued strikingly similar comments. “We all have to now look to Kraft to deliver on their hopes to develop and invest in the Cadbury,” he said. “It’s no good Lord Mandelson pretending he can second guess every management decision of the company.”