Unions sat down for the third time with company management 12 days into a blockade of gates at the Jupiler and Leuven breweries that was running stocks dry at supermarkets and bars.
Workers agreed to end their protests and let lorries enter and leave the breweries once more after AB InBev agreed to suspend plans to cut 264 jobs in Belgium.
The intended Belgium job cuts were part of a broader restructuring initiative in western Europe that included plans for 800 dismissals across the region. This would mean a 10 per cent reduction in the size of the regional workforce.
Now that workers have halted the implementation of these job cuts in Belgium, AB InBev will work with union representatives to discuss how to proceed.
Spokesperson Natacha Schepkens said: “The social dialogue can now be restarted, allowing us to give more explanation as to the social and economic context of our activities, as well as the challenges our business faces in Belgium, so that representatives of management and workers can discuss potential solutions during the talks.”
AB InBev blames the planned job cuts on falling beer sales, and the general economic climate, saying the company needs to be “slimmer and more flexible”.
For the first nine months of 2009 total sales revenue declined 1.8 per cent in organic terms to $24.461bn. Weak demand was especially pronounced in western Europe, where total volumes fell 5.6 per cent.
Despite the economic arguments for making job losses, AB InBev was forced to put the plans on hold in Belgium at least, as workers threatened to run Belgium dry of Leffe, Stella Artois, and Hoegaarden. Supermarkets were reporting empty depots and dwindling stocks on shelves, while some bars had to resort to alternative beers.
AB InBev warned last week that: “The absence of production and delivery to clients could have serious consequences for the future of InBev Belgium.”