By RTH Staff
Published April 06, 2010
Councillor Bob Bratina (Ward 2) sent the following letter to federal Industry Minister Tony Clement over the announcement that Labatt's is closing its Lakeport Brewery in Hamilton and laying off its 143 employees.
Dear Minister Clement,
Below is the complaint I have filed with the Competition Bureau regarding the impending closure and dismantling of the Lakeport Brewery in Hamilton. Please let me know what interventions may be possible through your office to save this facility.
Councillor, City of Hamilton.
In 2007 Labatt's purchased the Lakeport Brewery in Hamilton Ontario. On March 30, Lakeport employees were called to an 8:00 a.m. meeting and told their jobs would end on April 30. It was also learned that Labatt's would remove the brewing equipment, thus ending the possibility that the 143 employees would be able to continue working for another owner.
In 2007 the Company stated the following:
"We are very pleased to have this brewery in with the others," said Neil Sweeney, Labatt's vice-president of corporate affairs. "We've told employees there we want to negotiate a new collective agreement with them and we think this is a viable plant."
Labatt took control of Lakeport March 29 after completing a $200-million purchase of the income trust, which controlled the plant. With its earlier closure of breweries and repeated concerns about sagging sales and growing competition, many feared for the future of local operations.
In an interview yesterday, however, Sweeney said Labatt has some lessons to learn from the Hamilton plant.
"Lakeport has done great job of controlling its costs," he said. "We are looking for ways to cut costs on a daily basis."
The only unanswered question in the Labatt deal now is an appeal by the federal competition commissioner, against a ruling denying it extra time to review the takeover.
Sweeney said even if the competition commission gets court approval to go ahead with such an appeal, the issue will be how reviews are conducted, not the right-or-wrong of the Lakeport deal.
"We've said all along they didn't need another 30 days on this," Sweeney said. "Anything that happens on this appeal won't affect this deal, it's all about how extensions are granted. We still believe consumers are not going to be impacted by this deal at all."
I am asking the Competition Bureau on behalf of the 143 employees and the City of Hamilton to insist that no equipment be dismantled or leave the property until a review of the matter can be conducted.
I am also asking that the plant be advertised for sale for a period of at least one year to determine if new owners can be found to continue operating the plant as a brewery, and/or a distillery, and/or a bottling and shipping facility.
This is most urgent, and I would appreciate a timely response since 143 families' lives and future are in the balance.