New A-B Contract Whittles Away Skilled Positions

November 14, 2008: Teamsters at Anheuser Busch have won a new agreement they can be proud of.

But a look at some of the fine print gives some hints about what life under new management may be like.

Anheuser Busch Teamsters have overwhelmingly approved a new five-year contract that guarantees all 12 breweries will remain open for the life of the deal, plus a wage increase of $3.95 over five years.

It could have been much worse. A-B is in the middle of being bought up by Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev—a company notorious for union-busting.

InBev didn’t negotiate directly with our union. Company negotiators didn’t go after our union standards this time, after our union reached out to other unions at InBev from across the world.

Subcontracting

Still, the new deal does show some pointers as to what life will be like under InBev management.

InBev’s CEO Carlos Brito has a reputation for brutal cost-cutting, and he’s pledged to trim $1.5 billion in operating costs from A-B by 2011.

In other breweries, InBev management has cut jobs that aren’t part of the company’s “core.” That means subcontracting out maintenance jobs.

The new contract helps pave the way for subcontracting. In the Paint Department, open positions won’t be filled, and the department will be eliminated by attrition.

Similarly, utility workers won’t be guaranteed new power work located on company property but outside of the brewery’s four walls.

Retiree Healthcare Cuts

Another way InBev will seek to cut costs: shifting the burden of retiree healthcare.

Starting in 2013, retirees will pay a $500 deductible for family coverage. That deductible will go up to $1,000 the next year.

Retirees over the age of 65 will also pay a monthly premium of $100 for family coverage. Retirees under the age of 65 will pay no premiums.

“A-B Teamsters should be proud of holding off InBev for this round of bargaining,” said Katie Brutcher, a member of Local 1149 in Baldwinsville, N.Y. “But now is the time to get ready for new management.”