Strangeways reprieved after Interbrew U-turn

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By Tony Halstead Interbrew has scrapped plans to switch keg production of Boddingtons away from Strangeways, Manchester, in a move which threatened...

By Tony Halstead Interbrew has scrapped plans to switch keg production of Boddingtons away from Strangeways, Manchester, in a move which threatened the whole future of brewing in the city. Talks between union officials and Interbrew executives in Belgium earlier this week resulted in a major U-turn by the company, which appears to safeguard beer production at the famous 224-year-old plant. Interbrew has promised to keep all production of Boddingtons at Strangeways but still says it needs to cut 40 jobs at the site, and has called for volunteer redundancies. The official statement confirmed all brewing of Boddingtons' beers will continue at Strangeways subject to "operational effectiveness of the brewery and Boddingtons' future sales performance." The company also confirmed that its keg packaging facility at Manchester will close in February with the loss of around 50 jobs. Original plans to transfer keg operations from Strangeways to breweries at Preston and Magor in south Wales would have seen 80% of beer production switched from the Manchester brewery, leaving just a small cask ale operation on the massive site. It would have meant slashing the workforce from 107 to 39. Even the prospect of Interbrew moving production of Draught Bass from Burton-on-Trent to Manchester, when its current brewing contract with Coors expires, did not appear to give Strangeways long-term viability at one stage. Interbrew chief executive, Stewart Gilliland said: "We came up with a proposal that retains all brewing of Boddingtons in Manchester which we know is a most sensitive issue. "We know this is what customers were most concerned about, so we needed to find a way that ensured Boddingtons production stayed in the city while making cost savings." He added: "This whole series of events was brought about because of falling sales. "We need to see sales growing and use this agreement as a way of getting everyone with an interest to help the brand develop and get stronger." Transport & General Workers Union regional officer, Franny Joyce, who travelled to Belgium for this week's meeting, said: "We campaigned to keep production of Boddingtons in Manchester and that is what we have done." l Roger Protz's column on p9 this week was written before the Interbrew announcement.

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