BELGIUM: InBev moves to quell union anger

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InBev has moved to pacify European trade unions angry at its plans to cut a number of jobs across the Continent.

The world's largest brewer by volume today (28 March) witnessed a demonstration against the plans at its headquarters in the Belgian town of Leuven.

According to unofficial estimates, around 1,000 demonstrators protested against InBev's moves to axe jobs from its operations in Belgium and France, and plans to merge its finance, procurement and export functions in Europe at a cost of 360 jobs.

InBev today invited a delegation from the trade unions to further talks on the plans and insisted it would continue its "constructive social dialogue" on the restructuring plans.

An InBev spokesperson told just-drinks that the company "really understood the emotional reaction" to its "very difficult decisions" to restructure the business.

However, she added: "This is what we have to do in a declining beer market. We also have a responsibility to our many employees across Europe to make sure we are still successful going forward."

Flat beer sales across Western Europe have forced brewers including InBev to streamline their operations in order to revive earnings growth on the Continent.

InBev will continue to hold talks with union representatives on the plans but the spokesperson insisted that the company had to "get its cost base down".

"We carefully studied the plans before announcing our intentions but that doesn't mean we are not looking very seriously at the suggestions of employees on the plans. However, the context is very clear and it requires that we take action. We need to get our cost base down to continue to invest in top-line growth."

In February, InBev reported a 15.3% rise in EBITDA to EUR3.3bn (US$4bn) for 2005, on the back of a 7.2% increase in revenues to EUR11.6bn.

Sectors: Beer & cider

Companies: Anheuser-Busch InBev

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