Belgium May Run Out of Beer Amid AB InBev Strike

Belgian beer lovers hoping to forget the economic slowdown and freezing weather over a few pints of their favorite brew may be in for a shock, UK newspaper the Telegraph reported.

Shops are set to run out of best-selling brands like Stella Artois, Leffe and Jupiler because workers at Anheuser-Busch InBev have blocked breweries, protesting against layoffs.

Supermarkets in the country are running low on stocks of the popular beers and smaller shops have already run out, the beer maker said.

The world's largest brewer last week announced plans to make around 10 percent of its staff in Western Europe redundant after years of declining beer consumption in the region.

Workers of AB InBev stand on a picket line as they strike outside the InBev Brewery in Leuven, Belgium.
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AB InBev plans to cut more than 300 staff members in Belgium and Germany, where it employs 2,700 and 3,000 people respectively. Jobs will also be shed in France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Britain.

The company said the cuts are necessary because beer consumption has fallen 20 percent in Belgium since 2000, according to the Telegraph.

Angered by the job losses, union members took 10 managers hostage at the group's Jupille brewery in eastern Belgium last Thursday, but the executives were released unharmed the following day, according to the newspaper.

Employees have been protesting outside plants in Leuven – where Stella Artois is brewed – as well as factories in Hoegaarden and Jupille for the last week.

Despite winning a court ruling to end the blockade in Leuven on Friday, the company is not seeking to enforce the order for now, Reuters said.

It does reportedly have the legal right to break the blockades by force but wants to avoid that for now.

A union official said a move would trigger a strike by all Anheuser-Busch InBev's workers in Belgium.

Staff can go into the breweries but the blockades at the gates mean production has all but ground to a halt because of the difficulty in getting supplies in.

AB InBev was created in 2008 when InBev bought the Budweiser maker to become the world's biggest brewery. Since then the company has been cutting costs to reduce its debts.