Cadbury, Britain's best-known chocolate-maker, has a history of almost sickening niceness.
Founded in 1824 by a Quaker, John Cadbury, the company was the archetypal paternal employer. Staff used to be given a restorative cup of cocoa on arrival every morning. And when the company moved to a new factory near Birmingham in 1879, Cadbury built itself an entire village including homes, schools and hospitals for workers, as well as playing fields and leisure facilities in the factory grounds.
Cadbury was proud of its industrial relations record and in 1918 works councils were set up to monitor working conditions, education and training and the social life of the factory and its workers.
Now part of Cadbury Schweppes plc and a company over which the profit-hungry City analysts pore daily, Cadbury is trying to shrug off some of the more anachronistic ideological baggage. 'The trick is try to retain the best of the old without throwing the baby out with the bath water,' says Neil Makin, Cadbury's personnel director.
Such changes have not always been well received. Last year Cadbury announced 450 redundancies. Nearly a year later the unions, chiefly the Transport and General Workers' Union and the Amalgamated Engineering and Electricians' Union, are still in dispute with Cadbury over the redundancies and the length of the working week (the unions want a reduction from 39 to 37 hours per week). They are operating an overtime ban, the first in years. 'We wanted to be properly consulted about it, which we had been before,' says union convenor John Tiler.
But the Quaker roots still show through. Pensioners have an annual get-together - at Bournville - which is so well attended it has to be staged over three nights. And old-timers still get a bag of goodies each which the company confesses 'costs more to send out than the value of the contents'.
Cadbury pensioners are entitled to use the canteen as long as it is before 1.30pm.
Such nannying is now deemed unnecessary.
'People make more of a distinction between their working life and their home life,'says Makin.