For a half-century, retired Labatt employees have been entitled to as much as a 12-pack of free beer every week, an unusual perk that Anheuser-Busch InBev — the brewery’s owner for the last 21 of those years — has now made the “reluctant decision” to end in an effort to save costs. A-B InBev says workers’ annual allotment, which is sort of informally part of their pension package and could be passed on to spouses upon death, will be reduced over the next two years, then cut off entirely in 2019. A Labatt spokesperson tells the Times they’d been looking for ways to cut expenses when they realized that “None of the companies we surveyed offered free product to retirees.” Workers received a memo a short while later telling them to pour one out for their beloved benefit, insinuating the choice was between nixing either free beer or health-care coverage. This “led us [to] conclude that discontinuing free beer is the best course,” they wrote.
Understandably, workers are having a hard time swallowing this “nickel-and-diming of our retirees” in light of the $55 billion A-B InBev made last year — free beer is peanuts “in the cost of doing business” for the megabrewery, the workers’ union president tells CBC. The group to blame, though, is actually 3G Capital, A-B InBev’s controlling shareholders and the same misers who “blindsided” Tim Hortons executives with news that they needed to sell their private jet, and forced everyone at Burger King’s corporate headquarters to make long-distance phone calls on Skype.
A cheapo 12-pack of Labatt Blue, meanwhile, retails for something like $9. Workers sued the brewery a few years ago after it cut health benefits, and their union predicts the loss of free beer will only “further undermine morale.”