AB InBev Starts Temporary Layoffs Amid Beer Protest

Jan. 20, 2010
Worker blockade brought production to a standstill

Brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev began temporarily laying off staff on January 20 as a worker blockade brought production to a standstill, hitting supplies of some of Belgium's most popular beers.

"Due to the current blockades we are unable to provide work for our employees in the breweries" which "will have to resort to temporary lay offs linked to strike action," an AB InBev statement said.

Some of the sites, producing Jupiler and Stella Artois have been blocked by employees concerned about job losses for almost two weeks, while the center making Hoegaarden has been at a standstill for a week.

"The management started using 'lock outs' in Louvain, Jupille and Hoegaarden on Jan. 20. They kicked employees out into the streets and put chains on the gates," a spokesman for the CSC trade union said.

The protest action, which includes blockades, came after the group announced on January 7 that it planned to cut 10% of its workforce in western Europe, or around 800 jobs.

In Belgium, 263 of the 2,700 jobs at AB InBev will go.

Trade unions and employers met on Jan. 19 to try to resolve the standoff, after efforts to find a compromise broke down. Those talks also failed and a meeting set for Jan. 20 was cancelled. A spokesman for the FGTB said talks were expected to resume early on Jan. 21.

AB InBev produces around 60%of the volume of beer consumed in Belgium's bars and cafes, according to the national hoteliers and restaurants federation.

The group's production woes have also hit neighboring France and the Netherlands.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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