Once a place where the choco­late mak­ers felt like fam­ily, Cad­bury’s fac­tory at Clare­mont now ex­em­pli­fies the state’s man­u­fac­tur­ing chal­lenges and the need for us to adapt

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Up Front - WORDS PENNY McLEOD

How Cad­bury’s Clare­mont fac­tory ex­em­pli­fies the state of local em­ploy­ment

It was to be a work­ers’ par­adise. A choco­late fac­tory and a utopic way of life for Tas­ma­ni­ans mod­elled on Ge­orge Cad­bury’s vi­sion­ary cre­ation of a ru­ral idyll for work­ers a cen­tury ear­lier in Bournville, away from the slums of in­dus­trial Birm­ing­ham in Eng­land.

The Cad­bury fac­tory and es­tate at Clare­mont be­gan pro­duc­tion in 1922 on a 100ha penin­sula on the River Der­went, and ful­filled its Quaker founder’s prom­ise for decades. The semi-ru­ral lo­ca­tion near Ho­bart was idyl­lic and the vil­lage sur­round­ing the fac­tory was built to re­sem­ble a gar­den city, with green spa­ces, sports­grounds and at­trac­tive tim­ber and brick houses for em­ploy­ees.

Work­ers were treated like fam­ily and en­cour­aged to play sport and spend time out­doors where the aroma of co­coa beans roast­ing in­side the fac­tory lin­gered on the breeze. Cho­co­lates were in abun­dance, with dis­counted of­f­cuts for em­ploy­ees and vis­i­tors alike.

It is a dif­fer­ent story to­day. Over the past four decades, the choco­late man­u­fac­turer has slashed more than half its work­force, with an­other 50 of its 450 work­ers to go by the year’s end. The beau­ti­ful av­enue of trees lead­ing to the her­itage­listed fac­tory build­ings re­mains, but Cad­bury has sold off most of its res­i­den­tial and com­mu­nity as­sets, in­clud­ing the bowls and golf­ing greens, with­drawn spon­sor­ship from some com­mu­nity events, ended public tours of its fa­cil­i­ties and closed its pop­u­lar vis­i­tors’ centre.

Aus­tralian Man­u­fac­tur­ing Work­ers Union Tas­ma­nian state sec­re­tary John Short be­lieves the changes re­flect an un­nec­es­sar­ily bru­tal shift in the com­pany’s phi­los­o­phy and fo­cus, from a healthy, happy work­place and com­mu­nity to prof­its and pro­duc­tion ef­fi­ciency. Oth­ers, in­clud­ing econ­o­mists and so­cial and po­lit­i­cal ex­perts, ar­gue it’s sim­ply an un­for­tu­nate and in­evitable sign of the times, which re­flects a broader de­cline in ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ing in Tas­ma­nia and Australia.

All agree, however, that continuing job losses and the fast pace of tech­no­log­i­cal change and au­to­ma­tion at Cad­bury and other man­u­fac­tur­ers in Tas­ma­nia, in­clud­ing Norske Skog Boyer pa­per mill and multi-met­als business Nyrstar, are hav­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on some of Tas­ma­nia’s most so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged peo­ple, who de­spite Tas­ma­nia’s eco­nomic growth and fall­ing un­em­ploy­ment rate are strug­gling in the face of fewer en­trylevel jobs, height­ened job in­se­cu­rity and grow­ing in­ter­gen­er­a­tional poverty and so­cial in­equal­ity.

Freddo Frog, Flake and Twirl choco­late bars, Roses boxed cho­co­lates and the classic Cad­bury Dairy Milk block with the equiv­a­lent of “a glass-and-a-half of pure full-cream dairy milk” are among the 144 mil­lion choco­late blocks and 131 mil­lion bars (or 48,000 tonnes of choco­late) pro­duced each year at Cad­bury’s Clare­mont fac­tory, and sold mostly in Australia and New Zealand. Ninety mil­lion Fred­dos – in pro­duc­tion since 1930 and one of the com­pany’s best-sell­ing prod­ucts – are eaten ev­ery year in Australia. It sounds like a huge number of sales, but clearly it is not enough to quell the flow of re­dun­dan­cies at Cad­bury. The an­nounce­ment in Au­gust by Cad­bury owner Mon­delez In­ter­na­tional (a branch of Kraft Foods) that an­other 50 jobs would go by Christ­mas at Clare­mont was not un­ex­pected. It high­lights a decades-long trend: the de­cline of jobs in ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­nesses in Tas­ma­nia.

Mon­delez has said it is com­mit­ted to its business in Tas­ma­nia, and will in­vest $75 mil­lion in new tech­nolo­gies, equip­ment, au­to­ma­tion and train­ing at the Clare­mont site over the next 18 months. The com­pany owns a milk pro­cess­ing plant at Burnie and pro­cesses about 75 mil­lion litres ev­ery year for 100-per­cent use in Mon­delez In­ter­na­tional prod­ucts (pre­dom­i­nantly choco­late made at Clare­mont). It buys milk di­rectly from more than 40 Tas­ma­nian farm­ers and is the nam­ing rights spon­sor of the pop­u­lar Cad­bury Marathon in Ho­bart. But with the com­pany’s New Zealand fac­tory at Dunedin to close next year – and an­other 350 jobs to go as a re­sult – as well as in­creas­ing com­pe­ti­tion, low do­mes­tic growth, ris­ing costs and Australia’s dis­tance from in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, the com­pany’s fu­ture in Tas­ma­nia is far from cer­tain.

“Our Clare­mont man­u­fac­tur­ing site was the first Cad­bury op­er­a­tion set up out­side the UK in 1922 – it has played a sig­nif­i­cant part in Cad­bury’s his­tory in Australia and we want to make sure it con­tin­ues to play a part in our fu­ture, too,” Mon­delez In­ter­na­tional man­u­fac­tur­ing di­rec­tor for choco­late in Australia and New Zealand Ja­son Bon­isoli says.

“The na­ture of man­u­fac­tur­ing has changed and our com­pe­ti­tion is now global, so to truly be able to com­pete glob­ally we need to fo­cus on mak­ing Clare­mont a best-in-class fac­tory.

“Through re­al­is­ing ef­fi­cien­cies, in­vest­ment and im­ple­ment­ing new pro­cesses and tech­nolo­gies, we will be able to pro­duce qual­ity prod­ucts at a com­pet­i­tive-enough cost that we can at­tract ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties, main­tain local jobs and ul­ti­mately help se­cure the fu­ture of man­u­fac­tur­ing here in Tas­ma­nia. The ac­tions we are tak­ing to fu­ture-proof our site here are con­sis­tent with local and global trends we’re seeing in man­u­fac­tur­ing.”

Tas­ma­nian Cham­ber of Com­merce of In­dus­try data shows Tas­ma­nia’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor has shed about 3000 jobs in the past 10 years – from 21,000 em­ployed in the sec­tor in 2007 to 18,000 this year. In con­trast, em­ploy­ment in health­care has in­creased from 25,000 to 35,000, and ac­com­mo­da­tion and food ser­vices jobs have in­creased from 18,000 to 20,000 over the same pe­riod. This re­flects a broader shift to­wards a ser­vice-based econ­omy, and jobs growth in ar­eas in­clud­ing tourism, hos­pi­tal­ity, aged care and niche/ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing (for in­stance, spe­cialised IT, ship build­ing and brew­ing).

Though the change is happening at a time of rel­a­tive pros­per­ity, with growth in the econ­omy, in­creas­ing business con­fi­dence and de­clin­ing un­em­ploy­ment, it is feared struc­tural changes such as those at Cad­bury are ex­ac­er­bat­ing so­cial in­equal­ity in the state’s poor­est ar­eas.

The de­cline in man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs in Tas­ma­nia re­flects an Australia-wide and in­ter­na­tional trend among devel­oped coun­tries. Man­u­fac­tur­ing, once a ma­jor em­ployer, now ac­counts for less than 10 per cent of total em­ploy­ment and eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity in Australia. Lead­ing economist Saul Es­lake says Australia in gen­eral has never been par­tic­u­larly good at man­u­fac­tur­ing.

“There are ob­vi­ously honourable ex­cep­tions, and Cad­bury might have been one of those – and that’s not the fault of work­ers. It’s be­cause to be good at man­u­fac­tur­ing in to­day’s world you need to have scale,” Es­lake says.

Australia and Tas­ma­nia, with their rel­a­tively small do­mes­tic mar­kets and dis­tance from po­ten­tial ex­port mar­kets (compared with the US, Europe and China) are there­fore at a com­pet­i­tive dis­ad­van­tage when it comes to man­u­fac­tur­ing.

“We have de­fied eco­nomic logic [by sup­port­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing in Australia] for 80 years be­cause we, like lots of coun­tries, shared this be­lief that there was some­thing in­her­ently more important about man­u­fac­tur­ing than other forms of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity,” Es­lake says.

“Tas­ma­nia needs to fo­cus on pro­duc­ing highly dif­fer­en­ti­ated prod­ucts that peo­ple will pay a pre­mium for. My im­pres­sion is Cad­bury is pro­duc­ing choco­late that might be good but it’s not highly dif­fer­en­ti­ated, it’s not unique, and there­fore the only ba­sis on which you can keep pro­duc­ing it is by hav­ing ever lower wages, pay­ing farm­ers ever lower milk prices and hav­ing lower stan­dards.”

While some think Tas­ma­ni­ans should embrace the shift from man­u­fac­tur­ing to a ser­vices econ­omy, oth­ers say the Gov­ern­ment must tread care­fully, and en­sure there are still enough en­try-level jobs for low-skilled work­ers. This means pro­vid­ing ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing and re-skilling op­por­tu­ni­ties, and mak­ing sure Tas­ma­ni­ans com­plete Year 12.

Union boss Short says state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments must sup­port man­u­fac­tur­ing with in­cen­tives and other ini­tia­tives if the sec­tor is to re­main a key provider of en­try-level jobs for low-skilled work­ers in Tas­ma­nia.

“Peo­ple have been able to buy houses, bring up fam­i­lies and have a com­fort­able life on the strength of good man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs,” he says.

“Even if they weren’t able to go to univer­sity, or weren’t aca­demic at school, they still had a good fu­ture ahead. It’s a real con­cern that we’re los­ing these kinds of jobs.

“It’s not in­evitable that man­u­fac­tur­ing is going to die. Ev­ery­one needs man­u­fac­tured prod­ucts. It’s up to the State Gov­ern­ment to at­tract [man­u­fac­tur­ing] com­pa­nies here.”

De­mog­ra­pher Lisa Denny, who will be speak­ing at a Fu­ture of Work event in Ho­bart next week, says peo­ple are at risk of be­ing left behind by the fast pace of change.

“Large em­ploy­ers such as Cad­bury have pro­vided gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies with em­ploy­ment,” she says.

“Peo­ple saw Cad­bury as a place of com­mu­nity based on re­cip­ro­cal loy­alty and a means to pro­vide for their fam­i­lies. Chil­dren suf­fer the con­se­quences when their par­ents are made re­dun­dant. There has def­i­nitely been a loss of job se­cu­rity – and that wor­ries fam­i­lies. The changes are ex­ac­er­bat­ing the chal­lenges for those who are liv­ing in so­cio-eco­nomic dis­ad­van­tage. It’s the loss of that two-way loy­alty which has long-term in­ter­gen­er­a­tional con­se­quences.

“We won’t see up­ward so­cial mo­bil­ity un­less we can cre­ate more se­cure jobs. There is a dis­con­nect be­tween what the Gov­ern­ment is say­ing about eco­nomic growth and jobs. Even if the econ­omy is per­form­ing well, it doesn’t equate to job cre­ation. There are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties for jobs. We have to iden­tify where they are and make sure Tas­ma­ni­ans have ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing.”

TasCOSS chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Kym Goodes echoes Denny’s con­cerns. “Un­derem­ploy­ment and ca­su­al­i­sa­tion within the work­force re­main an is­sue,” she says. “We need to make sure no one is left behind as we move into em­ploy­ment ar­eas that re­quire a dif­fer­ent way of work­ing, dif­fer­ent train­ing and dif­fer­ent skills. This won’t just hap­pen, and re­quires recog­ni­tion that some com­mu­ni­ties are do­ing it harder than oth­ers, and some peo­ple will re­quire more in­ten­sive, longer-term sup­port to take up the job op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able.

“It is crit­i­cal that we help peo­ple take up the op­por­tu­ni­ties in the emerg­ing growth ar­eas of em­ploy­ment [such as aged and


dis­abil­ity care roles] to en­sure we do not see an­other gen­er­a­tion of long-term un­em­ployed in Tas­ma­nia … this re­quires sup­port, not just for the job skills but also in the ‘soft skills’ that are re­quired. The emerg­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in Tas­ma­nia re­quire peo­ple skills and the abil­ity to be adapt­able to change.”

The State Gov­ern­ment’s $4.08 mil­lion Jobs Action Pack­age, an­nounced in May, seeks to ad­dress these prob­lems. The part­ner­ship be­tween the State Gov­ern­ment, TasCOSS and the TCCI aims to in­crease the number of peo­ple in em­ploy­ment – espe­cially in re­gional ar­eas, in part by re­mov­ing bar­ri­ers (in­clud­ing lack of public trans­port) to peo­ple gain­ing and main­tain­ing em­ploy­ment.

In­de­pen­dent Mem­ber for Deni­son An­drew Wilkie wants the Gov­ern­ment to recom­mit (to ei­ther Cad­bury or other ini­tia­tives in the Glenorchy area) the $16 mil­lion of Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment money pledged by former prime min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott in 2013 to Cad­bury, which with­drew its ap­pli­ca­tion for the money when it was un­able to meet the fund­ing cri­te­ria.

Dur­ing Ques­tion Time last month, Wilkie asked Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull whether he would hon­our the Gov­ern­ment’s 2013 prom­ise to inject $16 mil­lion of eco­nomic stim­u­lus into the north­ern sub­urbs of Ho­bart through promised en­hance­ments to the Cad­bury fac­tory, and what would be done to help the lat­est work­ers be­ing made re­dun­dant.

“The com­mu­nity [in and around Glenorchy] is worse off be­cause of the de­cline in man­u­fac­tur­ing in some ar­eas,” Wilkie says. “At least Cad­bury hasn’t closed the fac­tory here, that’s some small mercy. [But] imag­ine what im­pact $16 mil­lion could have if it was in­vested in Glenorchy [for in­stance, in public trans­port or other public in­fra­struc­ture], a rel­a­tively dis­ad­van­taged area with high un­em­ploy­ment, low av­er­age wages and a rel­a­tively high de­pen­dency on Gov­ern­ment Cen­tre­link pay­ments. It needs and de­serves eco­nomic stim­u­lus and public fund­ing.

“The area has seen the rise of [ship builder] In­cat and the emer­gence of Mona. It has space for business to grow and there are emerg­ing ar­eas of ex­cel­lence, such as the art scene, which in­cludes not just Mona but the Moonah Arts Centre, too. Gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment would turbo-charge the area.”

A mid-week, late-af­ter­noon drive through Ho­bart’s north­ern sub­urbs to the Cad­bury fac­tory and es­tate at Clare­mont, just 4km be­yond Mona, re­veals lit­tle of the changes – job losses, new in­fra­struc­ture builds, au­to­ma­tion, new choco­late lines – at Cad­bury over 95 years.

From the Brooker High­way, the vast fac­tory out­line is only just dis­cernible on a tree-lined hori­zon. From the water’s edge, the road winds up through an av­enue of tow­er­ing trees and into a leafy green neigh­bour­hood. The strik­ing white fac­tory com­plex is within an oa­sis of green – of es­tab­lished trees, well-tended sub­ur­ban gar­dens, sports­grounds and golf­ing and bowls greens, all just be­yond the gated fac­tory build­ings and out of sight of the charred and aban­doned her­itage-listed Clare­mont Public School on Cad­bury Rd.

It’s clear that Ge­orge Cad­bury’s vision and legacy has en­dured in more ways than is ob­vi­ous to the eye. Gen­uine good­will ex­ists for the com­pany de­spite con­cerns about re­dun­dan­cies and the cur­rent owner’s fo­cus on pro­duc­tion ef­fi­cien­cies.

Among those who worked or had friends at Cad­bury or vis­ited the site, there’s a re­spect for the com­pany’s found­ing ethos and a nos­tal­gia for “the great days at Cad­bury”. Lo­cals re­call the lin­ger­ing smell of choco­late in the sub­urbs and at the fac­tory, and the plea­sures of eat­ing it.

At Clare­mont Bowls Club, which was es­tab­lished with inkind sup­port from Cad­bury in 1960, a wall plaque hon­ours one of the club’s found­ing mem­bers and former Cad­bury man­ager D. Cole­man. Though few, if any, of the club’s mem­bers now work for the com­pany, many re­main grate­ful to Cad­bury for be­ing a good em­ployer – and for giv­ing them ac­cess to rental prop­er­ties and cheap land and homes in the area.

The golf and bowl­ing greens, which are in prime water­front po­si­tions, were sold to the clubs for a small sum when Cad­bury di­vested most of its land as­sets after merg­ing with Sch­weppes in 1969. “Cad­bury sold off the bowl­ing green and gave away the sports green,” club mem­ber and former Cad­bury em­ployee Karl Renet­zeder says. “You could buy blocks of land for $6000 in 1973. Now a va­cant block is sell­ing for $110,000. Peo­ple felt grat­i­tude for that. Cad­bury was a good com­pany to work for. They were good to their em­ploy­ees.”

Mon­delez is crit­i­cised only obliquely dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion, in connection with the club’s weekly so­cial bowls com­pe­ti­tion, Cad­bury Fours, which the com­pany used to spon­sor, and the vis­i­tors’ centre.

“They used to spon­sor us with cho­co­lates, but when Mon­delez took over they dropped us,” club pres­i­dent Michael Pursell says. “The club mem­bers were a bit dis­ap­pointed about that.”

Club sec­re­tary Mike Quinn, who moved to Clare­mont in the 1970s, says fewer peo­ple visit the area now.

“There’s nowhere near the traf­fic there used to be near the fac­tory and bowls club. There were so many cars com­ing out of Cad­bury at the end of the day,” he says.

“They’ve lost the tour guides in the fac­tory and shop. They used to have 300,000 peo­ple a year go through the vis­i­tors’ centre. They’d come by boat, buses, cars and train. If you had peo­ple vis­it­ing from the main­land, that’s where you’d take them. They all used to leave the fac­tory laden with choco­late, and you could get a good dis­count on it.”

While in­ter­state vis­i­tors may not get be­yond nearby Mona these days, Glenorchy res­i­dent and his­to­rian Colin Den­ni­son, who helped Cad­bury digi­tise its his­tor­i­cal pho­tographs, says the Cad­bury legacy has en­dured in Ho­bart’s north­ern sub­urbs.

“The Cad­burys were very strict Quak­ers, and they were very fam­ily-ori­en­tated. If you were work­ing there, half of your fam­ily ended up work­ing there, too,” Den­ni­son says. “It was like a big fam­ily. They helped fam­i­lies pay their kids’ den­tal bills. I had a lot of friends who worked at Cad­bury and they were very happy in their work. They were de­voted to the com­pany. The sun shone out of the place.”

Den­ni­son can still re­call the smell of choco­late on the breeze in Glenorchy, where he has lived since 1951. “Choco­late has al­ways had a cer­tain amount of charm,” he says. “You could al­ways smell it, espe­cially if there was a sea breeze com­ing in. I worked part time for Ar­ma­guard and when you de­liv­ered the pay at Cad­bury you’d be al­lowed to go through the shop and get a cou­ple of pack­ets of re­ject cho­co­lates. Peo­ple would say, ‘Get me two pack­ets’, so you’d come back with half a bloody truck­load.”

Former Cad­bury em­ployee Pauline Hall like­wise re­calls the smell and plea­sure of work­ing with choco­late. The now-85-yearold Glenorchy res­i­dent, who was made re­dun­dant at Christ­mas in 1979 after 24 years, worked in many roles along­side her late hus­band, a store­man un­til he re­tired, as well as her daugh­ter for a while.

“We were one big happy fam­ily,” Hall says. “They were good to us – they were hu­man, which makes for shorter and more en­joy­able days.”

Hall started as a fac­tory worker on a choco­late-wrap­ping ma­chine. “I was mostly wrap­ping Brazil Nut bars,” she says. “Then I moved up to the ex­per­i­men­tal de­part­ment, which was in­ter­est­ing be­cause we used to do the new lines of choco­late.

“Luck­ily, I didn’t put on any weight – I think we used to work it off. We were al­lowed to eat choco­late ev­ery day. If you went into a de­part­ment, you could eat a choco­late there, but you weren’t sup­posed to get a pock­et­ful. I loved Turk­ish De­light and any­thing with nuts.”

For any­one who thinks the changes at Cad­bury are re­cent rather than part of a long, slow process of worker at­tri­tion, former Cad­bury board di­rec­tor Ted Best’s ex­pe­ri­ence is telling. Now 73, Best says change, in­clud­ing job losses as­so­ci­ated with merg­ers, takeovers, ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion and au­to­ma­tion, has been con­stant since he joined the com­pany as an engi­neer in 1966.

“I joined at a time when things hap­pened,” says Best, for­merly head of the com­pany’s Tas­ma­nia op­er­a­tions be­fore he re­tired in 2003. “It’s been an ex­pe­ri­ence. Adapt­ing to the tech­nol­ogy, trying to make your­self com­pet­i­tive all the time is chal­leng­ing.

“Man­u­fac­tur­ing [gen­er­ally] has suf­fered. When I started at Cad­bury at Clare­mont, the number of em­ploy­ees was ap­proach­ing 2000. When I took over in 1976, we had about 1400 to 1500. But by the time I left again to go to Cad­bury in Mel­bourne the num­bers were down to some­where be­tween 600 to 700, largely be­cause we had to keep in­vest­ing in new tech­nolo­gies and faster ma­chines.”

Den­ni­son says the first change in com­pany cul­ture came when Sch­weppes bought into Cad­bury in 1969. “They were a very hard­nosed business lot, very dif­fer­ent to what Cad­bury were,” he says. “From there it was a sharp turn down. All of the fam­ily-ori­en­tated ini­tia­tives started be­ing white-an­ted right out of the place. Now you’ve got Kraft [Mon­delez] in there and all they’re in­ter­ested in is mak­ing money. They don’t care about any­thing else.

“The same thing has hap­pened at other man­u­fac­tur­ers, like the zinc works [Nyrstar] and Boyer, where I worked. They were set up on the same ba­sis as Cad­bury and re­ally val­ued fam­ily, but things have changed. Ev­ery­thing is more money-ori­en­tated.” Best, however, feels only good­will for the com­pany. “I un­der­stand why Mon­delez wants to keep a low pro­file, compared to what it used to be like,” he says. “Peo­ple ex­pect good things of you, with spon­sor­ships and the like, and then when you have to do the harder things, like re­dun­dan­cies, it’s even tougher.”

He’s hope­ful Mon­delez’s re­cent de­ci­sion to in­vest $75 mil­lion at Clare­mont means the fac­tory will re­main open for an­other 10 to 15 years, at least.

“It’s been a con­stant strug­gle to main­tain the vi­a­bil­ity of the fac­tory at Clare­mont and it will con­tinue to be,” he says. “You can’t think for­ever in these sit­u­a­tions.” De­mog­ra­pher Lisa Denny will fa­cil­i­tate a panel dis­cus­sion at a Fu­ture of Work in Tas­ma­nia event at the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia’s Stan­ley Bur­bury The­atre, Sandy Bay, on Tues­day, from 6-7.30pm. If you would like to at­tend, RSVP to Alumni.Of­ or phone 6324 3052

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