Unions and management at AB InBev have reached a temporary agreement on work security, valid for a period of five years, according to the food and services section of the ACV union, reported by Belga. The dispute had seen blockades at three sites in Leuven, Hoegaarden and Jupille, as well as a looming shortage of beer being prevented from leaving the company’s breweries.
Unions were demanding better terms and conditions for workers made redundant for economic reasons, including guarantees that work would be found elsewhere without loss of pay. They also called for a change to the status of administrative staff, who currently worker under a less beneficial regime than that of labourers. Talks on the questions started two weeks ago but immediately collapsed.
The stalemate increased last Monday when unions organised blockades at the gates of the three breweries, stopping lorries leaving and putting pressure on management. They in turn refused to discuss anything further as long as beer was not allowed to leave the breweries.
Out in the country, food and drinks businesses and their consumers began to fear a shortage of beer, including the country’s favourite, Jupiler, as the blockades continued. In the end, they were raised manu militari by police on Wednesday, by order of a court. The next day, the morning shift at the main brewery in Leuven failed to turn up for work, though production started later in the day.
The agreement was reached on Friday, but little is known of the detail as ACV informs its members. Only the five-year duration of the agreement has been discussed.
“The management is committing itself for a long time,” said union representative Kris Vanautgaerden. “People needed to have security. AB InBev is busy investing, including in our neighbour countries. That makes people uneasy. Now we have an agreement to maintain the existing conditions, with improvements here and there. We’re satisfied we can defend this to our members.”