The Jupille brewery – the historic home of Jupiler beer – was shut down on Friday after staff stopped working following several cases of coronavirus infections, but AB InBev stressed that its other breweries in Belgium remain open.
What the shut-down in Jupille will mean for production or when the brewery will open again, is not yet clear at the moment. As with many breweries under the InBev name, Jupille is responsible for the brewing several of the giant’s product line, meaning the impact stretches wider than one specific beer.
“We are in talks to figure out what needs to happen,” an AB InBev spokesperson told The Brussels Times. “Our other breweries, however, will just continue production as normal.”
As for Jupiler, it will continue to be brewed in the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven, also owned by InBev.
Earlier on Friday, the brewery’s management announced in a press release that nine of its employees working in the logistics department of the Jupille brewery tested positive for Covid-19. “We hope that they will recover quickly and that we can welcome them back to our brewery when they are fully recovered.” Two initial infections were confirmed on 27 August.
“We are seeing a general increase in the Liège area, where the brewery is located, and we are one of the companies with confirmed cases of Covid-19. These cases are concentrated only in the logistics department. Other departments such as brewing and packaging are not concerned. The 9 colleagues represent about 1% of the total staff of the brewery,” the company said.
The close contacts of the employees involved have been traced. The Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work and the trade union delegation have met several times “to monitor the situation closely.”
“People have been in danger”
Trade unions blame the company’s human resources department for the delay in reacting after the first cases were detected. “There are people who have taken Covid cases lightly. We don’t want that kind of person at the head of Human Resources or the security post any more. It’s taken too long. People have been in danger,” commented Patrick Rehan of the FGTB to RTBF.
AB InBev claims to have taken, since the beginning of the pandemic, all the necessary measures to prevent a possible spread of the virus in the workplace. “We are doing this in all our breweries in Belgium, and unannounced external inspections have shown that we fully comply with all government directives.”
The other Belgian production sites of the brewing giant are located in Hoegaarden, Leuven, Leeuw-Saint-Pierre and Buggenhout.
The Brussels Times
Update: This story has been updated to clarify that the brewery shut down as a result of staff stoppages.