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Cadbury Bournville can't return to 'days of women in hair nets'

Cadbury workers must accept owner Mondelez International's modern practices 'ultimatum' to survive, claims MP Steve McCabe.

Women working on a production line at Cadbury's in 1966.
Women working on a production line at Cadbury's in 1966.

Bournville cannot go back to ‘the days of women in hair nets producing chocolate’ if it is to secure vital funds of £75 million to guarantee its future, says local MP Steve McCabe.

The Selly Oak MP said the changes being demanded from workers by owners Mondelez International were essential to secure the historic factory for future generations.

Labour MP Mr McCabe said: “We do not want to see another closure like we saw at Longbridge – I want this business to be there for my grandchildren.

“The prize in this period of time is £75 million worth of investment to try to secure jobs for the foreseeable future. Yes, this is about change, change and survival, which is better than no change and closure.

“If we are going to keep working at Bournville, we cannot go back to the days of having women in hairnets producing chocolate, the world has moved on.”

Mr McCabe spoke out after the Post revealed that American owners Mondelez International had issued a document entitled ‘High Performing Bournville, is this for me?’ demanding change from around 1,000 manufacturing workers.

Chocolate workers are being told they must ‘demonstrate a new set of behaviours,’ with those who do not want to sign up to ‘High Performing Bournville’ invited to take redundancy.

The management document warns that chocolate production at Bournville could be switched to other Mondelez sites if the company did not adapt to the changes required.

It is understood that talks are continuing between unions and management on a series of key issues critical to the £75 million investment, which will see six ageing production lines replaced by four new state-of-the-art lines.

Working methods, shift patterns, terms and conditions and contracts of employment are all thought to be under scrutiny, while Mondelez has warned that jobs will inevitably go in the process.

Mr McCabe said: “This is part of long drawn out negotiations with unions to secure £75 million worth of investment to modernise the plant.

“Everybody, to the best of my knowledge, recognises that the problem with Bournville long-term is that it needs new technology and equipment to enable it to compete.

“The profile of the workforce does need to change. It needs a younger workforce who are better equipped in terms of technology.

“There will be some people who are unhappy about the process of change. I am very optimistic for the future, I see a very effective apprenticeship scheme, I see investment in research and development, investment in technology which will guarantee jobs for the future.

“There are issues there but if you are planning over a five to ten-year period, there will have to be some changes. It is not for me to negotiate, it is for the unions and the workforce to negotiate (with management) – these negotiations are almost complete.”

Mr McCabe added: “We have sat back and watched one industry after another collapse. But I take a very optimistic view of Bournville – they have been very upfront about investment and productivity.

“I do not want to lose any jobs in my constituency. Selly Oak is still in the top 20 per cent of jobs in the UK for unemployment.”

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