Trade unions in Belgium claimed victory last night as they agreed to end worker blockades of Anheuser-Busch InBev breweries in return for talks with the group on alternatives to its proposed job cuts plan.

There was a sense of mission accomplished emanating from union leaders, as they announced a deal with the InBev Belgium - brokered yesterday (21 January) by the Belgian Government.

A spokesperson for the Stella Artois brewer told just-drinks today that it has agreed to put job cuts proposals on ice; until fresh talks with unions are complete.

"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," the spokesperson said.

However, the elephant in the room cannot be ignored here and both the unions and the company know this.

The bottom line is that demand for beer in Belgium has fallen by almost a fifth in the last seven years. Beer demand is falling across Western Europe, for that matter.

With markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa demonstrating much higher volume growth potential, it stands to reason that capacity - and so jobs - is going to be reduced in western countries.

Trade unions took A-B InBev by surprise with the ferocity of their assault on the brewer's operations, but failed to cause lasting damage and have so far succeeded only in making headlines.