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Free beer benefit for Retirees chopped!

Free beer for retirees

Would your ex-employer give you anything? Something like FREE BEER! Probably not in Australia.

Labatt Breweries of Canada has been brewing for close to 170 years and, as a fringe benefit,  giving their retirees several vouchers per year for an odd case of two as a recognition of their hard work. According to anecdotal information, over the course of a number of wars, Labatt employees and retirees turned their vouchers in and had the company send beer to soldiers..

But that’s all about to end. Free beer for Labatt retirees will stop flowing in a couple of years, the company confirmed Monday.

“With the escalating costs associated with maintaining a full benefits package, Labatt made the reluctant decision to discontinue our free beer allotment to all retirees in Canada,” Charlie Angelakos, spokesperson for Labatt Breweries Canada, said in an emailed statement.

“We only came to this decision after benchmarking a range of Canadian beer and consumer packaged goods companies. It showed that our overall package of pension and retirement benefits are competitive and none of the companies we surveyed offered free product to retirees.”

Retirees get eight cases of beer a year, which they’ve used for decades for neighbours and friends and family, street parties and community celebrations.

The decision likely will help keep Labatt retirees healthier, said a Western University law professor specializing in drug and alcohol policy.

“It’s clear that availability is a key determinant of use. It’s also clear that the lower the cost of the alcohol, the more people consume,” said Robert Solomon, who’s also national director of legal policy for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada.

“Alcohol, freely available to ­individuals, would likely increase consumption and increase all alcohol-related problems; health, trauma, falls and driving-related. Labatt’s policy of not making the alcohol available is likely going to reduce risk of all kinds among their former employees, which is a positive.”

But retirees don’t see it that way. The loss of the free beer is a sign of how Labatt has lost a connection with the community, Lomack said.

“If an employer can afford to do that kind of goodwill, it generally pays off for them in spades,” said Lomack, who retired Sept. 1 after 27 years.

“If you were the beneficiary of a case of beer, or a few bottles went your way, from a corporation that was doing the right thing for your community, you felt pretty good. And it felt pretty good to give it, too. As a retiree, I was looking forward to having my beer benefit extended.”

The former Canadian owned company was bought by Belgium’s Interbrew in 1995 and, after mergers, is now part of Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Excerpts of this article were first published in The London Free Press

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Alana Lowes

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