Heineken hit by first strike in decades

REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

Hundreds of workers went on strike Friday at two Heineken breweries in the Netherlands after wage talks stalled, the first industrial action at the world’s second largest beer company since 1994.

Heineken, which called the strike “premature”, has stopped production at breweries in the southern city of Den Bosch and at Zouterwoude near The Hague with some 250 workers involved, Dutch media reports said.

The Dutch labour union FNV said negotiations on a new collective agreement stalled after months of talks with the Amsterdam-based brewer, leading to a one-day strike.

“Our aim was not to strike, but nothing was forthcoming from the company’s side,” FNV spokesman Niels Suijker told AFP.

“People have worked in dangerous conditions over the last two years with the corona pandemic. Our salary demand is lower than inflation, which is really high at the moment,” Suijker said.

Workers said management’s current offer of a 3.5 percent wage increase was too low compared with surging inflation in the Netherlands which topped 5.7 percent in December.

The FNV is also demanding a better early retirement scheme, a higher travel allowance and more permanent jobs for temporary workers.

Heineken did not immediately reply to a request for comment by AFP, but an official told Dutch media the brewer would “like to continue talks” with the union.

Heineken’s supply chain director Maarten Koudenburg told the NOS public broadcaster that the strike would not lead to empty shelves.

Supermarkets and other shops were being supplied from existing stocks, he said.

Bars and restaurants were not affected as they remained closed under Dutch Covid restrictions.

The last strike at Heineken happened in April 1994, also after wage talks failed.

Workers for days blocked exits at factories, sparking fears that the country would run out of beer by then Queen Beatrix’s birthday, but the beer blockade was finally disbanded by a court order.