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AB InBev avoids Teamsters strike

Brewing giant AB InBev has reached a “tentative collective bargaining agreement” with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters to avert imminent strike action.

The strike was first threatened late last year when 99% of the 5,000 Temasters members who work at 12 Anheuser-Busch breweries across the US voted in favour of it if a new labour contract raising wages, protecting jobs and securing benefits was not secured before the union’s contract expired today (29 February). Had the demands not been met, and a strike gone ahead, the union’s general president, Sean M. O’Brien, suggested that it would cause the company to “burn hundreds of millions of dollars on massive sponsorships, stock buybacks, and CEO pay packages”.

Earlier this month, Anheuser-Busch, AB InBev’s US operation and the owner of brands including Budweiser and Beck’s, claimed that it had been working to “secure a contract” that “recognises and rewards” its employees, though the Teamsters disputed this.

However, now it appears that negotiations have taken place, and been fruitful.

A statement from Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth released yesterday (28 February) toasted the end of hostilities: “At Anheuser-Busch, we have said time and again that our people are our greatest strength, and we are incredibly pleased to have reached a tentative agreement that continues to recognise the talent, dedication, and hard work of our teams, while also positioning the company for long-term success.”

O’Brien also celebrated the agreement: “Teamsters make the beer, Teamsters make Anheuser-Busch successful, and our members deserve the best contract. That is what we fought for and won today.”

“Anheuser-Busch knew our members were serious and prepared to do whatever it would take to get a fair agreement,” O’Brien continued. “After a long day and a longer campaign, we’ve reached an agreement that sets a new high standard for the brewing industry. Teamsters continue to hold the line at Molson Coors in Texas for a fair contract, but Molson Coors should pay close attention to the bar we’ve set today for brewery workers across the country.”

Among the benefits that the tentative agreement has brought are an US$8 dollar an hour wage increase (with an immediate US$4 hour raise in the first year), a US$2,500 ratification for each of the Teamsters members at Anheuser-Busch breweries, and an increased maximum vacation accrual to eight paid weeks. There are also now increased pension contributions, the restoration of retirement benefits for active and retired members, and an end to the two-tier health care system, which means, according to the union, that “all workers [will be provided] with the same high-quality Teamsters health care coverage”.

The agreement is described as “tentative” as its ratification will be voted on by Teamsters members.

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