South African Breweries has defended a controversial redundancy package covering a group of former workers who claimed the deal was signed without their approval.

Some disgruntled former employees last week claimed that South Africa's Food and Allied Workers Union did not have the mandate to act on their behalf when it agreed a deal with SAB Ltd last October.

However, a spokesman for SAB Ltd in Johannesburg told just-drinks yesterday (30 January) that the FAWU was "fully mandated" to act on behalf of the 138 workers laid off in 2001.

"The FAWU is the representative union of the affected employees. It certainly seemed that the FAWU was fully mandated by their members to negotiate on their behalf," the spokesman said.

"This is supported by the fact that the majority of employees have collected their settlements and have signed individual consent letters. It was a very generous settlement."

SAB Ltd, the domestic brewing business of beer giant SABMiller, reached a settlement last year with the FAWU covering employees at its Newlands, Rosslyn and Prospecton breweries.

The workers were laid off in 2001 after the brewer introduced what the spokesman called "best operating practices" to boost efficiency at the three sites.