ANHEUSER-BUSCH InBev, the world's largest brewer, has temporarily laid off its Belgian brewery workers in a dispute over planned job cuts.
For two weeks, workers have blockaded the entrances to the company's large plants in Leuven and Liege – and the smaller Hoegaarden factory for a week – in protest at AB InBev's plan to shed 299 of its 2,700 Belgian workforce and two mediation attempts have failed to break the deadlock.
AB InBev's Belgian unit, InBev Belgium, and unions said a third session would take place today. Belgian drinkers, among the biggest consumers of beer in the world, are starting to feel the effects.
“We're starting to face a lack of stock in many places. It had been more at wholesalers, but now it's more at the consumer level in bars and shops,” an InBev Belgium spokeswoman said.
Supermarket Delhaize said yesterday that its depot had run out of InBev beers Leffe, Stella Artois and Hoegaarden. The company said it had been unable to bring in raw materials and packaging to the breweries and that its on-site storage facilities were now completely full. It said that due to the circumstances it had to make the workers temporarily unemployed.
Unions called the move a “lock-out” and a heightening of tension given that workers willing to work would not be paid. AB InBev has said it could cut 10pc of its 8,000 strong workforce in western Europe due to falling beer markets.