January 14, 2010 / 8:59 AM / 9 years ago

AB InBev talks to unions to end Belgian blockade

BRUSSELS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI.BR), the world’s largest brewer, was set to hold talks on Thursday with union leaders in a bid to end a week-long blockade of Belgian breweries.

Workers at the Leuven and Jupille breweries began blocking the plant entrances after the beermaker announced it planned to cut a net 263 jobs out of its 2,700 Belgian workforce last week.

The company’s Belgian unit said on Thursday that production and deliveries were being hampered and it might have to temporarily lay off staff as a result of the workers’ action.

InBev Belgium said it would hold meetings with white collar and blue collar union representatives chaired by a mediator.

A union official told Reuters the unions were only willing to resume dialogue if the job cut plan was withdrawn.

AB InBev, which makes Budweiser, Stella Artois and Beck’s, has said it could cut some 10 percent of its 8,000 strong workforce in western Europe due to falling beer markets.

The company sold 5.6 percent less of its beer in the region on a like-for-like basis in the first nine months of 2009, part of a general downward trend exacerbated by the economic crisis. (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Dan Lalor)

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