Hillingdon has been home to many iconic English firms down the years, including Penguin Books,Technicolour and EMI – Indeed, even my favourite chocolate makers Cadbury’s had a presence in the Borough until recently.
Now we have received the news that United Biscuits( manufacturer of the classic Penguin biscuit) who are stationed near to my family home in Hayes End, are on the verge of being taken over by a Chinese company, Bright Foods.
So what is the problem, you may ask, if it keeps people in jobs? Therein lies the problem – How many firms over the last ten years have been bought out by overseas owners, only to see their promises of keeping jobs locally betrayed?
BMW took over Rover, and destroyed it just to get their hands on the Land Rover and Mini brands, whilst the last 20 years have been rife with sellouts of our manufacturing firms to overseas companies, who have taken the corporate identities but switched their manufacturing abroad to make more profits.
When US giant Kraft took over Cadbury, they gave assurances about protection of jobs for the English workforce – Since then, manufacturing at plants that have been a mainstay of local communities have been switched to Eastern Europe, whilst 150 people at the Uxbridge office in Sanderson Road were also made redundant.
Some maintain that ‘market forces’ will dictate that a brand needs to manufacture at a lower price to survive, whilst others quote that ‘you can get a better product at a lower price’ by moving your production out of the UK. In the case of Cadbury, this is blatantly untrue – My nephew lives in the USA at the moment, and the thing that he always asks my sister to get for him to take back when he visits England is ‘proper chocolate’ – Funnily enough, Cadbury’s is his favourite brand too!
The Germans have also shown that price is immaterial when it comes to brand and quality – If we all wanted a cheap product, we would be driving Korean and Malaysian built cars, yet BMW,Volkswagen and Mercedes consistently top the sales figures, despite being more expensive to buy than Far East manufactured motors. The really funny part about this figure is that despite their reputations and brand loyalty, all three have been beaten in reliability tests recently by Honda,Nissan and Toyota – All of which are now built in England!
If United is to be sold off to the Chinese, then the government need to have assurances made regarding local jobs, and have these assurances written in to any takeover agreement. If not, then the sale should not be allowed to go ahead, especially as the company as it stands now is profitable and not in need of a takeover to prop it up on the stock markets.