Alken-Maes hopes for swift end to union action

Alken-Maes hopes for swift end to union action

Workers at Alken-Maes, the Belgian subsidiary of Heineken, have blocked the entrance to the firm's brewery in Alken in protest over planned job cuts.

Beer supplies have been stuck in the brewery for 24 hours due to the blockade, an Alken-Maes spokesperson told just-drinks today (29 January).

Trade unions are upset at the brewer's plan to cut 49 jobs at the brewery, which comes in response to Belgium's shrinking beer market.

Alken-Maes, which brews Grimbergen and Maes beers, employs 550 people in Belgium. The group passed to Heineken as part of the Netherlands-based brewer's takeover of Scottish & Newcastle businesses in 2008.

Heineken has played no part in the job cuts plan, the Alken-Maes spokesperson said. "This is our decision and we are doing it in order to stay competitive in a declining market.

"Pubs are disappearing very quickly and the economic crisis has had a very big influence," she said, declining to give specific volume sales figures for the last year.

Earlier this month, Anheuser-Busch InBev similarly announced it would cut 10% of its Belgian workforce to reflect a beer market that has shrunk by around a fifth since 2002. It also faced blockades on its breweries.

However, Alken-Maes said that only around 10 workers were blocking its beer supplies, with operations continuing as normal inside the brewery. It is hopeful of ending the blockade within the next few days.