Union tackles Cadbury over factory closure

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cadbury Trade union European union

UK union Unite yesterday announced it would ballot its members for
strike action, as Cadbury's plans to close one UK factory and
reorganise another will result in job losses.

Although food companies can make greater profits by moving operations to Asia and Eastern Europe, many companies are finding that they often have to face opposition from workers and unions who fear a loss of jobs.

Cadbury, the number one confectionery company in the world, said earlier this month that it will switch some UK chocolate manufacturing to Poland, in an attempt to reduce costs and remain competitive.

One UK factory near Bristol will close and another in Bourneville will be reorganised resulting in a loss of 700 jobs, Cadbury said.

The Unite union yesterday told Cadbury management that it will ballot its members nationally to oppose the closure and job losses.

"The consultative ballot we will organise is the first step on the road to a full industrial action ballot," said Unite organiser Brian Revell, in announcing the proposed strike action.

Revell also accused Cadbury of "blatant profiteering", saying that the company is set to make a huge profit from stopping operations on a site that has "high land value".

He also called on the company to disclose all of the information that affected its decision.

"We still don't have the full information from Cadbury's as to why they want to close a profitable plant, sack seven hundred workers and shift work to Poland only to sell the products in the UK ," Revell said.

"The company has promised full disclosure but we will push ahead with the consultative ballot so we can garner the views of our members."

Unite is also encouraging individuals to sign the on-line petition "Keep Keynsham Cadbury's", describing the company's decision as "outrageous and wholly unjustified."

Cadbury yesterday released an official statement saying: "We have made proposals which we are now discussing with employees and unions.

These discussions continue and both sides are committed to the planned meetings over the next few weeks."

However, when approached by ConfectioneryNews.com, Cadbury spokesperson Tony Bilsborough refused to make any additional comments.

Meetings between Cadbury and the union are due to take place in early November, Unite said.

However, Cadbury is not alone in its desire to turn eastwards, as cheaper labour and operating costs make countries like Poland very profitable for food companies.

According to a report released in May by EU agency Eurofound, in Slovakia, Romania, Estonia and Poland, the monthly minimum wages add up to less than 35 per cent of average gross monthly earnings.

Meanwhile companies in Spain, the UK, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Portugal and Hungary pay a minimum wage that is between 38 per cent and 41 per cent of average gross monthly earnings.

Several countries have moved manufacturing facilities to Eastern Europe, including French confectioner Cemoi, Nestle and Barry Callebaut.

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