Blog: Dean BestWhy it is unfair to lash out at Kraft at the first opportunity

Dean Best | 9 February 2010

Predictably, trade unions in the UK have tonight (9 February) hit out at Kraft Foods' admission that the company will not - after all - be able to reverse Cadbury's plans to close a plant in the south-west of England.

In a fiery statement, the Unite union said the US food giant had "deliberately misled" Cadbury staff at the Somerdale plant by saying "repeatedly" that the factory, which makes chocolate brands from Crunchie to Curly Wurly, would not close.

It is not three weeks since the Cadbury board accepted Kraft's GBP11.7bn takeover bid and seven days since a majority of shareholders followed suit and feelings are running high.

Fears that Kraft will slash jobs to cut costs and pay down the mountain of debt used to buy Cadbury are tangible.

However, it is unfair that union fears over the prospect for jobs under Kraft should turn to anger when the US food group will now follow plans first drawn up by an independent Cadbury.

When Kraft first went public with its approach for Cadbury in September, it was wrong to say it "believed" it could keep Somerdale open.

It smacked of a hasty attempt to win support for its interest in Cadbury and, while hindsight is a wonderful thing, it was clear back then that Kraft should have kept its counsel until it had a proper chance to evaluate the UK confectioner's business.

But the decision to close Somerdale was made by outgoing Cadbury CEO Todd Stitzer back in 2007, not by Kraft boss Irene Rosenfeld.

Stitzer's decision earned him some fierce public criticism; to now aim that criticism squarely at his successors is a little misplaced.

Fear over the future seems to have led some to lash out at the first opportunity.


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