LONDON (AP) — Campaigners to save British jobs at Cadbury have made a complaint to regulators that Kraft Inc. misled employees during its takeover of the chocolate maker after it backtracked on plans to keep a factory open.
Amoree Radford, who led a campaign to preserve the Keynsham factory in Somerdale, western England, said she had lodged an official protest with the Takeover Panel.
"We know we can't get the jobs back, but we want the authorities to learn their lessons so it doesn't happen to another company later," Radford told the BBC.
The Takeover Panel, which regulates mergers and acquisitions in Britain, declined to comment on whether it had opened an investigation.
During a long and bitter takeover battle, Kraft said it would save the plant and 400 associated jobs, a decision that would have reversed earlier plans by Cadbury to close the factory and move production to Poland.
However, shortly after Kraft completed its 11.5 billion pound takeover of the 186-year old iconic British confectioner last month, Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld said the plant would close by 2011.
Rosenfeld said it had become clear that it was "unrealistic to reverse the closure program, despite our original intent to do so," noting that Cadbury had already spent 100 million pounds building new facilities in Poland and that most production would be transferred by the middle of this year.
The Takeover Panel's powers are limited — the most it can do is issue a verbal reprimand — and analysts point out that reversing the Cadbury decision to keep the plant open would have cost shareholders more than closing it.
But the future of Cadbury's operations in Britain are already shaping up to be a factor in general elections to be held by the start of June.
Radford was joined in lodging the protest — as Cadbury shares were delisted from the London Stock Exchange — by Jacob Rees-Mogg, an opposition Conservative Party candidate for the North East Somerset, a new constituency that includes the Somerville factory.
A cross-party parliamentary committee will question Kraft and Cadbury executives later this month on the company's future plans.
"Kraft gave a number of undertakings before its takeover of Cadbury," said Peter Luff, the chairman of the Business Innovation and Skills Committee. "We will be testing those undertakings, and put Kraft's plans for the future of Cadbury under the spotlight."
Unions have complained about other job cuts announced earlier this month. Up to 150 jobs are threatened at Cadbury's offices in Uxbridge, west London, and Bournville in Birmingham, as Kraft looks to cut out duplications in its newly enlarged operations.