JOHANNESBURG, Jan 24 (Reuters) – South African Breweries (SAB), a unit of Anheuser-Busch InBev, has suspended the contracts of 550 temporary workers indefinitely with immediate effect due to the latest ban on alcohol sales, Business Times reported on Sunday.
This will reduce SAB’s current workforce to 5,357, the Sunday Times business paper said, adding that staff affected received their last payment on Friday and will receive no income during the suspension.
“The third alcohol ban has resulted in reduced demand for temporary workers’ skills. This is no fault of their own but rather a result of the current operating environment,” SAB’s vice-president of corporate affairs Zoleka Lisa told the paper.
“We realise the impact this decision will have on 550 families who will sadly have to go without because of the uncertainty of the alcohol ban.”
SAB was not immediately available for comment.
The workers who have lost their jobs are mostly part of the brewer’s supply and logistics division and include packers and delivery personnel, Business Times said.
South Africa recently banned alcohol sales for the third time as part of efforts to free up space for COVID-19 patients in hospitals burdened with alcohol-related injuries.
About 30% of local breweries have been forced to shut their doors permanently and some, including SAB, have abandoned planned investments in South Africa, where more than 165,000 people in the industry have lost their jobs since lockdowns started at the end of March.
Lisa told Business Times that no retrenchments have been made yet.
On Wednesday, the South African arm of Heineken said it will cut 70 jobs due to the bans.
SAB is currently in court challenging the government’s decision to re-impose the ban and has suspended commitments to retain workers and investments, agreed as part of its merger with AB InBev.
(Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; editing by David Evans)
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