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Cadbury Bournville workers told to 'change behaviour and attitude' or leave the business

Mondelez says the ‘true home of Cadbury’ must ‘go through a transformation journey’ to secure investment of £75 million in new state of the art production equipment

Cadbury in Bournville
Cadbury in Bournville

More than 1,000 Cadbury workers at Bournville have been told to adapt to change – or see their jobs moved overseas.

Mondelez International, which now owns the iconic plant which was founded in the city in 1879, is demanding huge changes from the workforce.

Staff have been told by their American bosses that chocolate production at the historic Birmingham factory could be switched to other Mondelez International sites if they don’t adapt to change.

In a confrontational document, seen by the Birmingham Post, workers were told that they must ‘fundamentally’ change their behaviour in the factory – or apply for voluntary redundancy.

Mondelez says the ‘true home of Cadbury’ must ‘go through a transformation journey’ to secure investment of £75 million in new state of the art production equipment.

A document entitled “High Performing Bournville is this for me?”, warns: “If we don’t change we will be unable to grow and develop our workforce to succeed to be the very best and therefore fail to become supplier of choice.”

And it adds: “In order to move to a High Performing Bournville, we need everyone at all levels to demonstrate a new set of behaviours.”

The ultimatum to the workforce comes just six months after Mondelez boss Maurizio Brusadelli told the Post that the Bournville factory was lagging behind its European counterparts with ageing infrastructure and manufacturing costs double that of sister plants.

The American parent group unveiled a £75 million programme of investment in January which will see old production lines replaced with new state of the art equipment. The firm has warned that the cash outlay is dependent on a successful conclusion to consultations underway with unions on the productivity gap. But the document – which warns that jobs must go – has sparked fears throughout the factory that the proposed changes could cause huge disruption to their lives.

A worker, who asked not to be named, said: “Loyal, dedicated and hard-working employees are entering into a set of discussions that will decide whether they fit the behaviour profile of the Mondelez/Kraft employee of the future.

“The way they will work, shift patterns, terms and conditions, and contracts of employment are all under scrutiny and the workforce is extremely worried.

The entrance to Cadbury World on Linden Road
The entrance to Cadbury World on Linden Road

“Employees’ whole lives may have to change, people working days may also have to work nights, and vice-versa. Holidays may have to be moved to accommodate production needs.

“There is a theory among the majority of Bournville employees that Mondelez/Kraft only ever wanted the Cadbury brand and reputation, not the people, the site or the heritage.”

The Post understands that unions are currently in talks with management about the document.

In April, Maurizio Brusadelli, at that time Mondelez President for the UK and Ireland, told the Post: “We are not competitive today – to be competitive we need to invest. We have to go back, hopefully invest after the consultations, and then we can talk about what is next.

“Bournville can be one of the best plants in the world for manufacturing. To do that we have to change and we need the money to invest to create lines that are state of the art. We cannot work with lines that are 40, 50 years old. With this money, Bournville can be one of the best manufacturing plants in the world and competitive with other plants.”

And Neil Chapman, manufacturing director chocolate UK for Mondelez International, said: “Our costs on the ground down here are twice as much as others in our sister factories in Europe.

That is manufacturing costs, compared to other sister plants in Europe, such as Germany.

“We use them as a benchmark. Before (the Kraft takeover) there was no-one to compare with.

“There are two sides to manufacturing costs. One: spend less, and two, drive more volumes through your plant. If we can reduce our costs, we will attract more volumes here and improve our efficiency.”

The document says: “Every single colleague will be expected to display the right behaviours and attitudes to be part of High Performing Bournville.

“We have been clear there will be fewer colleagues here at the end of our journey. We will achieve this as much as possible through MVR (managed voluntary redundancy) for those who don’t want to be part of High Performing Bournville.

“This may require remaining colleagues to move across lines or varied shift patterns – but this will be dialogued as part of consultation and with individuals as required.”

Workers are being invited to personal one to one talks to discuss the document, which asks them to tick boxes answering Yes, No or Maybe to a string of questions.

Questions include Are you a team player with an attitude for playing your part, getting stuck in and driving performance?

Do you want to work in a factory where you are expected to meet all compliance requirements and are held accountable if they are not met? Do you embrace change?

“High Performing Bournville will always be striving to be better.”

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