Anheuser-Busch InBev, Teamsters to start contract talks in early November

ST. LOUIS – Anheuser-Busch InBev and the Teamsters union are about to begin contract talks for the first time since the Belgian brewer InBev purchased the maker of Budweiser, Bud Light and other beers five years ago.

Meetings will start early next month, both sides said in a joint statement Tuesday, though a specific time and place were not disclosed. Anheuser-Busch InBev commands a 47.6 per cent share of the U.S. beer market.

At issue is a new contract for workers at Anheuser-Busch’s 12 U.S. breweries, including St. Louis, the U.S. headquarters for Anheuser-Busch InBev. The current contract expires Feb. 28.

“The Company and the Union expect these negotiations to be professional and productive, and look forward to a conclusion which they believe is in the best interests of the Company, its employees, its shareholders and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters,” read a statement from Pat Knipper, vice-president of labour relations for A-B, and David Laughton, a Teamsters director.

It will be the first Teamsters contract since InBev bought St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch in 2008. Soon after the merger was announced, Anheuser-Busch and the Teamsters reached agreement on a five-year contract covering more than 5,000 employees. A union spokesman said there are now between 5,000 and 6,000 Teamsters under the contract.

The 2008 deal included a renewal of the company’s contractual commitment to keep all 12 breweries open for the span of the contract.

David Laughton, director of Teamsters Brewery and Soft Drink Workers Conference, said Teamsters negotiators “will continue to bargain to protect good union jobs and benefits.”

Anheuser-Busch spokesman Anthony Paraino on Wednesday declined comment beyond the written statement.

In addition to St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch operates breweries in Newark, N.J., Los Angeles, Houston, Columbus, Ohio, Jacksonville, Fla., Merrimack, N.H., Williamsburg, Va., Fairfield, Calif., Baldwinsville, N.Y., Fort Collins, Colo., and Cartersville, Ga.

The brewer is expected to announce third-quarter earnings on Thursday.