"Kraft made a fool of us," say Keynsham chocolate workers
Amoree Radford is utterly gutted. "I believed Kraft totally," she told BBC Points West tonight. "But they made a fool of me. They are utterly despicable."
Throughout the Kraft / Cadbury takeover battle, Amoree took what she called "the glass half-full approach". When she read that famous pledge from the American Chief Exec Irene Rosenfeld, "...we believe we would be in a position to continue to operate the Somerdale facility..." Amoree believed it.
Cynics scoffed, many of them on this blog. 'greybead1' put it like this.
In spite of all the promises made by Kraft regarding the Keynsham premises, I predict that within a year of the dust settling those premises will be closed. I hope I am wrong.
Well, greybeard, you were right.
I was told by a Wall St insider that Irene Rosenfeld's personal word was at stake. That a U-turn would be a 'PR disaster'. Well, Wall St was wrong. At 5:56 tonight, this dropped in my inbox from Kraft:
"Regrettably, the company has now confirmed that the Somerdale plant will close by 2011 in line with the plans already put in place by Cadbury".
The 500 staff at Keynsham were told this afternoon, by Cadbury managers. One worker on his way out tonight told us "It was obviously a big fat lie. Apparently the plans to move to Poland were too far gone to reverse them, so we're still for the chop."
So what has changed? Is there anything more here than just "a big fat lie"?
Kraft are refusing any television or radio interviews point blank. But their spokesman in the UK, Jonathan Horrell, tells me everything changed when they got the keys to the Cadbury kingdom. They talked to the Cadbury people working on the move to Poland. They discovered a £100 million factory was being built, and the majority of chocolate lines were already being transferred.
And so Irene Rosenfeld issued a new personal statement:
"It became clear that it is unrealistic to reverse the closure programme, despite our original intent to do so. While this is a difficult decision, we have moved quickly to end any further uncertainty."
Surely, I press him, none of this was new. We all knew the Cadbury plans were well advanced. Everyone in Keynsham knew that people would start to leave in March. That chocolates would start being marked "Made in Poland". You can see the new factory on Polish TV, on the internet.
No, Mr Horrell insists, we had no information from Cadbury throughout the negotiation. Only last week did Cadbury and Kraft executives sit down and work through the detail. It is regrettable, he tells me, but it is a genuine change of heart based on new information.
Dan Norris, the local MP, told Points West he was "bitterly disappointed at this news. We've had our hopes raised, and now dashed again. In a global market this is what happens, foreign companies buy British companies, but I'm not concerned about that today - I'm concerned about the people locally who are affected."
Of course, six months ago Keynsham knew its beloved chocolate factory was closing. So have they lost anything? Not substantially, no. But the bitterness is etched on Amoree Radford's face. Bitterness, and betrayal. What passions our chocolates arouse.