Strikes at Belgian plant see AB InBev shift production to US

Strikes at Belgian plant see AB InBev shift production to US
AB InBev brewery at Jupille. © Wikimedia

Brewer AB InBev is to shift some of its production from its plant at Jupille in Liege to the US, with the loss of 88 jobs.

According to the company, the Jupille plants is too often at a standstill as a result of strikes.

The reliability of the brewery in Jupille is not guaranteed,” InBev spokesperson Laure Stuyck told De Standaard.

There are too many work stoppages. In the past four years, the brewery was shut down for a month in total due to strikes. The union is too quick to use the strike weapon instead of waiting for social dialogue. If the social climate improves, volumes can return.”

The change will mean less Stella Artois is brewed at Jupille for countries outside Europe, which will now be served by production in the US.

The main Stella Artois brewery in Leuven is now working at full capacity, which led the company – the largest brewery in the world – to send some production to Jupille. That will now move to the US, where exports can be handled just as easily, and without the regular interruptions by labour actions that made it impossible to serve international customers, the company said.

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But industrial unrest is only part of the reason.

For sustainability reasons, we also want to produce closer to the consumer,” Stuyck said. “A lot of our CO2 emissions are associated with the transport of beer. If we move production to the US, we will save more than 7,000 tons of CO2.”

The move means the loss of 29 permanent jobs at Jupille, and 58 temporary, from a total workforce of 760. The 29 permanent workers made redundant can look forward to a redundancy payment of 36 months salary, on top of their legal allowance, thanks to an internal company agreement.

The socialist union, the largest at Jupille, is expected to issue a response today.

The reference to the strikes is a pretext,” said Patrick Rehan of the FGTB union. “AB InBev has an anti-union policy worldwide.”

There are currently no redundancies on the table,” said Marc Delvenne of the Christian union CSC.

We will analyse the situation together. A works council will take place on Thursday, another on Monday.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

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