I’ve been avoiding this story over the last few weeks, mostly because I’ve been busy with other work and it’s a complicated one. I’ve sure you’ve seen it and pieces of it, though. It’s even gone mainstream, with Time magazine wading into it, mostly because of the big business angle. In a nutshell, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced more layoffs despite having also recently announced just over $1.5 billion in profit for Q3 2009. The latest proposed layoffs, about 800 jobs at ABIB’s European breweries included about a third in Belgium. But unlike here in the U.S., labor unions still have a bit of actual power in the EU. And they decided to fight back. At several breweries in Belgium — Stella Artois, Jupiler and Hoegaarden — workers have barricaded the breweries, and even took management hostage overnight at one plant.
After two weeks, supplies of Stella Artois and other beer brands owned by ABIB were running low, though most headlines seemed to suggest that beer itself was almost out in the nation. Obviously, with hundreds of breweries still open there was hardly a shortage of beer, just a shortage of a few popular ones, but none that true beer-loving Belgians would even miss. But on Friday, the union agreed to stand down and enter into negotiations, for the time being “they struck a deal that postpones the brewer’s plans to reduce 303 jobs in Belgium — some 10 per cent of its work force there. It says it will also create 40 call centre sales positions, bringing net job losses to 263.” According to the AFP, “‘After the blockade is lifted, the unions and management will start from scratch with meetings of the works council that will deal with problems site by site,’ union representative Tangui Cornu told AFP.” Reuters also had an update.