Fight Back New Service is circulating the following statement from the Workers Party of Belgium (WPB) on the dramatic victory won by Belgian workers at Anhauser-Busch InBev, who defeated a restructuring plan that would have resulted in layoffs.
Background – Anhauser-Busch InBev
The Anhauser-Busch InBev multinational (Belgian-Brazilian) is the world’s largest beer brewer. It employs about 120,000 workers in 25 countries with a total sales number of 39 billion US dollars. It is among the top 10 consumer products multinationals. Beginning this year, the company announced that it planned to cut 10% of its 8,000 workforce in Europe. In Belgium, AB InBev announced 300 layoffs at its breweries in Jupille and Leuven.
Between 1989 and 2009, the total production in Belgium tripled from 4 to 12 million hectoliters. During the same period, the workforce was reduced by half, from 6000 to 2800 workers. Three times more beer produced by half the numbers of workers. Hence, the productivity increased by 600%. In a call for solidarity, the union delegations of Jupille and Leuven asked, “Why do increases in wealth have to translate into disaster for the workers? What is the logic, if it is not profits over everything else?”
After have gone through several restructuring plans over the last years, the workers of AB InBev decided it was enough and that they had to “resist the logic of a perverted capitalism”.
Last year, AB InBev Belgium took advantage of 70 Million Euros in tax cuts to support the “creation of jobs”. With that money, they could have created 2000 jobs, or more than 6 times the number of jobs it wants to cut today. Why didn’t the multinational do so?
If AB InBev is cutting jobs, it is not because it is not making money. It is because it wants to make even more money. In 2009, the company made 4 billion dollars of profits and realized 18% in return on investment. For 2010, it plans to pay 945 million Euros to shareholders. AB InBev is not in financial trouble. It wants to come out of the recession stronger than it was before, with more profits and more assets, at the cost of their competitors and thousands of jobs. They are preparing for the aftermath of the crisis, which will lay the foundation of another, even bigger crisis.
The workers of AB InBev refused to accept this logic. For two weeks, they sealed off the entrances to the company’s plants in Leuven and Jupille and demanded that the restructuring plan be completely withdrawn.
On Thursday January 21st, the board of AB InBev announced that it was completely withdrawing the restructuring plan.
The Workers’ Party of Belgium welcomes the withdrawal of the restructuring plan within the multinational brewer AB InBev and particularly applauds the tenacity of AB InBev workers in their struggle.
January 22d 2010
Raoul Hedebouw, spokesperson of the Workers Party of Belgium. “This struggle is an exemplary struggle. During 15 days, the workers showed determination to the board on the withdrawal of the restructuring plan. For the first time since it was introduced, a “Renault Procedure” (which is the legal procedure to be followed for restructuring) had to be stopped. This is a important victory!”
The WPB emphasizes the importance of union unity in this conflict.
Raoul Hedebouw. “The unity of the workers was a determining factor in this struggle. Over the past years, the union delegations of the north (Leuven) and the south (Jupille) of the country reinforced their relations, and their relations got even stronger during this conflict. Their unity allowed them to resist the pressure from the board of the AB InBev to accept the restructuring plan. This unity was further supported by the decision of the AB InBev workers of the Netherlands and Germany to refuse to bottle the Jupiler beer!”
Another important element emphasized by the WPB is the solidarity of the people. “Every day, dozens of workers and union delegations came to the picket lines in Leuven and Jupille to show solidarity. That a company like AB InBev, who makes so much profit, can lay off workers is an idea that is not accepted by the people.” says the young spokesperson. He adds: “In this context, the WPB is proud to have been able to support the works of Jupille and Leuven in their struggle, through our daily presence at the picket lines and the multiple solidarity delegations that we organized.”
In the difficult economic context, the WPB emphasizes the important character of this victory. Raoul Hedebouw: “Every single day, companies announce restructuring plans in the country. Even complete plant closure, such as the closing of the Opel Antwerp (General Motoros) assembly plant announced on Thursday morning January 21st. This victory shows that through struggle, it is possible to make employers retreat on restructuring plans that aim at making even more profits for the company.”
The WPB calls for the politicians to take responsibilities for their actions. Raoul Hedebouw: “The parliament needs to pass an emergency law that would stop layoffs in companies that make profits, distribute money to shareholders, give out bonuses or make cash reserves. We need to stop giving tax breaks, subsidies and public aid to companies to create jobs while at the same time, these same companies announce layoffs and restructuration plans.”
The WPB was the first party to denounce tax cuts for companies, which handed over 70 Billion Euros of tax payer money to AB InBev Belgium.