Kevin Frayer/AP

Molson Retirees Complain About Unexpected “Last Call”

June 11, 2009 07:00 PM
by Anne Szustek
In a bid to lower costs, Canadian brewer Molson is cutting back its monthly allocation of free beers for the company’s retirees.

Molson Retirees Get Sudsed Over Reduction in Beer Benefits

Retirees of Canadian beer maker Molson held a demonstration outside its brewery in St. John’s, Newfoundland last Friday to protest a reduction in their pension that their union representative tells the Toronto Star works out to a loss of about C$1,300 ($1,184) a month.

As part of its “standardizing” plan, as the company terms it, Molson is scaling back its allotment of free beer for its retirees. Up to this point, Molson pensioners of the St. John’s brewery received six dozen bottles of beer a month. As of the start of next year, this will drop to a dozen a month and in five years, their beer pensions will go dry. Current employees will get 52 dozen free bottles of beer a year instead of the 72 dozen they receive now.
Unions representing Molson employees in Vancouver and Montreal have filed legal grievances. In the meantime, the retirees feel that Molson is using the recession as an excuse, because the company has performed strongly recently.

FindingDulcinea wrote last September about how the beer segment has been faring well during the recession. Molson Coors has been no exception, if its first-quarter reports are any indication. The company upped its stock dividend and reported a more than doubling in its net profits during the first three months of this year to C$75.7 million ($68.9 million). According to the Toronto Star, the letter notifying retirees of the cutback in free beer was released just before the company’s Q1 reports came out.

St. John’s Molson retiree Bill Bavis told the Toronto Star, “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 Vice-President Ferg Devins maintains that the pension package remains “very generous,” reports the Star.

The complimentary beer for retirees has an annual price tag for Molson of some C$1 million ($900,000), reports Reuters, benefiting 2,400 former employees of the brewery.

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Background: Retiree perks

Retirement-age people from all walks of life can benefit from senior discounts at various retailers, travel companies and restaurants. Sometimes the deals are advertised but “most companies don't provide marketing budgets for the senior discounts, so check with the businesses you already deal with and always ask," president David Smidt told U.S. News and World Report.

But then again, like Molson’s beer pension, some perks come with the trade, and if the company is looking to save some money, they’re usually the first to go. Case in point: as U.S. air carriers have struggled over the past few years, free or reduced-price airfares for retirees from airlines have become imperiled. The New York Times reported in March 2006 that “nonrevenue” fliers, the term for current and retired employees who fly free, are finding it harder to secure a seat. According to the article, as many as five employees qualify for each nonrevenue seat.

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