Molson Coors Closing Strike-Hit Edmonton Brewery

Plant idle since union members went on strike in May; closure will eliminate 136 jobs at century-old brewery.

EDMONTON (CP) - Unionized workers reacted angrily Tuesday after Molson Canada announced it planned to close its century-old strike-bound brewery in Edmonton at the end of August, throwing 136 workers out of work.
The company blamed the ongoing strike as a key reason for its decision.
''The current labor impasse, after months of negotiating, at the Edmonton brewery to reduce costs for new hire employees was a contributing factor to the decision,'' Kevin Boyce, president and chief executive officer said in a release.
''(But) deciding to close this facility was a complex decision involving many factors.''
The loss of a Foster's contract to the U.S. and a consumer shift from bottles to cans also played a role, Molson said.
The Canadian Auto Workers union said the decision proves that granting concessions demanded by the company that prompted the strike would not have changed anything.
''We are incredibly disappointed and frustrated with (the) decision by Molson Coors brewery to close a profitable operation in the country's wealthiest province,'' said Todd Romanow, a national representative with the union.
''The Edmonton brewery is of world-class caliber. Only six months ago, this location was also voted No. 1 brewery of the company's 10 operations.''
About 102 millwrights, electricians, machinists and production workers, members of CAW Local 284, have been on strike at the brewery since May 31.
The walkout was prompted by Molson's demand for concessions on wages for new hires, an inferior pension plan and a reduction in sick days, the union said.
The company said it would offer ''fair separation packages'' to employees losing their jobs.
Molson Canada is part of the Molson Coors Brewing Co., based in Golden, Colo. Molson Coors was formed in the 2005 merger of Montreal's Molson Inc. and Adolph Coors Co.
Earlier this year, Molson Coors CEO Leo Kiely said cost-cutting efforts and synergies after the merger of Molson and Coors were expected to yield savings of $175 million in 2008.
In May, Molson Coors said it would take a charge of up to US$24.6 million related to the end of a licensing agreement with Foster's Group Ltd.
Foster's cancelled its agreement after U.S. volume plunged 33 per cent from 2001 through 2006, according to reports, and SABMiller plc is replacing Molson Coors as the brewer of Foster's under a 10-year license agreement starting in November.
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