Molson retirees losing their free beer to cry in
TheStar.com | Canada | Molson retirees losing their free beer to cry in
KIM GOODYEAR FOR THE TORONTO STAR
Retired Molson employee Bill Bavis says lack of consultation is unfair.
Pensioners protest as their allotment of 864 brews a year will be cut to nothing
Jun 09, 2009 04:30 AM
If you sang that well-worn campfire song about the beer bottles on the wall, you'd have to start at 864.
That's the annual complimentary beer allotment for retirees from the Molson brewery in St. John's, Nfld., the same amount of free suds they received while still working.
But, without consulting them, Molson has decided to shut the tap.
Come Jan. 1, the allotment will be a dozen bottles a month, down from six dozen a month (or 72 dozen a year), and in five years, it will be zero. For current workers, who also get 72 dozen bottles a year, the allotment will drop to 52 dozen. No five-year cut-off is planned.
Retirees held a protest outside the brewery last Friday. They've demanded a meeting with top company officials and will get one within the next two weeks.
In Vancouver and Montreal, where the allotment is less than in St. John's, the unions have launched grievances. Vancouver's case goes to arbitration June 16.
"There was no consultation, we just received a letter that this is a done deal, which is totally unfair," said Bill Bavis, who retired six years ago after 32 years at Molson's in St. John's. "I think with the economic downturn they're trying to take advantage of us, as a way to cut retirees' benefits and justify it."
Molson says it is "standardizing" its complimentary beer policy, which was originally intended not only as a perk but also to allow workers to share their beer, thereby helping to market it.
"This was a decision made by management after reviewing a number of cost-cutting measures," said Molson vice-president Ferg Devins. "We strongly feel the benefits package for our employees and retirees is still very generous."
The measure, announced in a letter in early April, came just before parent company Molson Coors announced its net profit more than doubled in the first quarter compared to last year, to $75.7 million, and increased its dividend.
There are 2,400 Molson retirees in Canada. Their free beer costs the company about $1 million a year.
Critics say all they've done is alienate their workers. "This does nothing for production inside" the plants, said Greg Pretty, a director for the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union, which represents the St. John's employees. For the average retiree, it means the loss of the equivalent of about $1,300, he said.