Last Friday's letter requesting "urgent contact" follows a volatile Business Investment and Skills select committee meeting last Tuesday, where Kraft executives – led by corporate and legal affairs director Mark Firestone – revealed that they are conducting a ‘harmonisation project’ to align employment conditions for Cadbury staff with those at Kraft.
For instance, under the terms of an existing agreement, Cadbury office and junior management staff get three weeks pay for each year they spend with the firm: prospective changes have raised union fears - within the GMB as well as Unite - of possible job losses further down the line.
Surprise and concern
Noting her "surprise and concern" about news of possible harmonisation in the letter seen by FoodManufacture.co.uk, Jennie Formby, Unite national officer for food and drink, wrote: "As the national officer with responsibility for our members in former Cadbury sites, I would expect to have direct contact from your management on any issue relating to terms and conditions rather than learning about it via the press reports of the [select committee] hearing."
Given that 13 months had passed since the acquisition, Formby also pressed Rosenfeld to share Kraft's "business plan for the manufacturing sites" in the UK and Ireland in the "short, medium and long term", for collective bargaining and consultation purposes. "You will be aware that we have the right to request information of this nature," she said.
Speaking in the wake of last week’s meeting, Formby said Unite members were “disappointed but not surprised” to hear that Kraft’s two-year guarantee on compulsory redundancies and site closures – made last February after the firm reneged on a promise to close Somerdale – would not be extended beyond 2012.
Formby said: “At the time of the takeover, Unite demanded five-year guarantees on job security, and Kraft’s continued refusal to give any commitment to its workforce past this two-year period does not bode well for the future, particularly in view of Kraft’s history of closing sites, outsourcing and making thousands of people redundant across the world in order to pay down their debt.
“Our members therefore have serious concerns about what may happen after 2012 both to jobs and terms and conditions, and while it is unlikely that Bournville as a site is under threat in the near future, other sites may well be more vulnerable."
Rosenfeld’s no show
Select committee member, Labour MP Ian Murray, told FoodManufacture.co.uk last week that he was also worried that the two-year guarantee hadn’t been extended:
"Who knows but we might have a vibrant UK chocolate making business in the future, but unfortunately none of the executives were prepared (or even had the authority) to back [staffing] commitments beyond 2012, which is a bit of a worry.”
Murray added that he was disappointed by the fact that Rosenfeld made comments to the press "obviously directly from her" that assisted Kraft with the Cadbury takeover, but still wasn't personally prepared to explain Kraft's position to the select committee.