Economy

Bratina Files Competition Bureau Complaint over Lakeport Closing

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.

Sincerely,
Bob Bratina,
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.

18 Comments

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By Recursive (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 10:38:26

Yo dawg I heard you like quotes so I put a quote in your quote so you can quote while you quote.

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By Reality!!!! (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 12:29:16

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By be real (anonymous) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 15:45:51

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 16:04:41

By be real: Just exactly what is a real job in your world, please enlighten us all. Your arrogance precedes you.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 20:10:34

Lakeport employees are a bunch of un-educated monkeys. They have been lazy and never thought to upgrade their skills and get real jobs. This was 2 years in the making and if these moron employees didnt do anything to protect themselves then it is the workers fault as the words were clearly written on the walls for 2 years atleast

Teresa? Is that you?

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By canbyte (registered) | Posted April 06, 2010 at 22:54:15

Hey folks. Bickering about bickering does nothing. Do we expect no anger and emotion about yet another blow to our city? Merulla and Brattina will kiss and make up none the worse for wear. They are politicians.

Letters such as Brattina's or even threats to boycott Labatts are similarly useless. Just officious hand-wringing designed to dupe the voters. Where is a politician with guts?

What should be done? If someone actually restarted our brewery, could it survive? If the answer to that question is YES, then there is only one course of action to take. And since the pols are unwilling, it looks like it is up to citizens to do it.

Citizens, if you want the brewery to remain in Hamilton, you must boycott the road outside the brewery so that no equipment can go anywhere. 24/7. Call it a parade. A nice peaceful parade. For days or weeks or months or even years if necessary. Fly big kites or balloons nearby too so helicopters cannot be used to remove equipment.

We shall then see which side the politicians are really on. If they send the police to clear the road, well folks, follow the money. But perhaps a politician or two will find some courage to JOIN the parade so as to bring Labatt to heel.

Its time that Citizens stood up to Corporations (and crony politicians). Corporations are supposed to be a human construct to create wealth but now have become a juggernaut that tries to crush all who stand in their way, Monsanto style, on their way to the new world order - of serfdom for the masses. It is nigh time to curb their power for the benefit of the people. It might as well start in Hamilton.

Or as Plato said, your silence gives your consent.

Comment edited by canbyte on 2010-04-06 21:57:50

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted April 07, 2010 at 10:58:03

lakeport crawl!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 12:09:58

Canbyte: Great suggestion. There is a lot knowledge and expertise right there, the workers themselves. Is it not feasible that they themselves could come together, to work together to create a Hamilton product, that we all could be proud of. I know not an easy task but we have enough poverty in this city, we do not need more.

There should be a community organizing effort to rally around these workers and their families, to save these jobs.

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By zippo (registered) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 18:17:42

Minor point maybe but needs making: "Labbats", the "owner", is just one of 200 aliases of "Anheuser-Busch InBev", a Belgium based trans-national which is the worlds largest beer maker (2009 sales of $39 billion). I'm sure if was not for the shipping costs they would do all their brewing in China, or whatever other slave wage shit-hole was cheapest.

Can't blame Bob for his grandstanding, after all there is a municipal erection coming soon, he needs to fog a mirror every now and then...

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By Seriously (anonymous) | Posted April 07, 2010 at 21:08:55

The last thing The New Hamilton needs is chud like this wasting bayfront property. Raze that fucking tin shed and move on. Lakeport is ass, and faking pride in some cheap swill simply because it's churned out of Hamilton is pathetic.

Old Hamilton (read: manufacturing) is dead.

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By canbyte (registered) | Posted April 08, 2010 at 00:53:17

Seriously, lets take your suggestion seriously for a moment. One trader i respect suggested that Hamilton would not hit bottom until the entire waterfront was deindustrialized. Mainly, that's steel and i guess the margerine facility. Maybe leave a little at the very bottom around the sewage plant? In fact, either its all gotta go or getting rid of one item only makes our brownfield/ tax situation worse without really upgrading the waterfront. Change without improvement. All or nothing is a good way to think about it as it forces one to confront the issue you raise - 1. is the old economy dead and 2 is the new economy ready for prime time and 3 is Hamilton/Canada ready for the new economy?

I say, no, no and no although i'd waffle on all three as nothing is absolute. Therefore, i'd be cautious about throwing out a workable beer making asset. Even if you consider it swill. As long as customers can be found, who cares?

If you want to be arrogant about it, i hope you're rich enough to take over what's left and do something with it. It'd be nice too if you looked after the workers, even if BeReal thinks they're uneducated. Who did you expect to be making consumer level beer?

I have no idea whether the plant could be resurrected but here is my historical review fwiw. Plant started by offshore interests making premium beer? I can't remember. Failed, more or less. Got taken over by entrepreneur Teresa. She tarted it up into an income trust, probably quadrupling its price. Good for her. Labatt paid 200 million which means before the trust thing, it was worth say 50 million. Jim Flathead pulled the rug from under trusts and by extension, non-salaried pensioners who depended on their RRSPs. Asshole. Which means that the plant value declined again to say 50 million. Labatts lost their export market making the plant redundant. Stung twice. So now their only benefit from this huge expense is to squash competition by removing some assets. Please correct this history if i got it wrong. Can someone tell us if there is overcapacity in this sector?

Be that as it may. There may be hope, but only if Hamiltonians are willing to actively struggle.

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By alrathbone (registered) | Posted April 09, 2010 at 18:40:02

"Old Hamilton (read: manufacturing) is dead."

Read: Hamilton is dead. Period.

Creative economy is great, but the economy can not survive only on artists. If those are the only jobs in Hamilton, I do not see this city going anywhere.

Even LA isn't all about the creative economy.

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By canbyte (registered) | Posted April 10, 2010 at 00:01:15

Dismal comment but hard to dismiss. Just today i heard about a nursing home in Hamilton closing and the beds being transferred to Burlington. Can't we do anything right (besides gummerment jobs)?

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 10, 2010 at 02:34:37

Canbyte: Just a thought, the movie, Its a Wonderful Life, Mr George Bailey. I love this character because he believed in the people.

Maybe we need more George Baileys in the world, opposed to the the Mr Potters, which would allow for the little people to create jobs and businesses.

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By canbyte (registered) | Posted April 10, 2010 at 12:59:49

Bang Bang. Grassroots, you hit the nail bang on the head. I haven't seen the movie but i'd guess that Mr Potters represents all the regulators and/or taxes which, when overdone, gums up the works. Taxes sit like a sack of potatoes on the back of all the Mr Georges while regulations are like quicksand under his feet, no?

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 10, 2010 at 16:06:31

Canbyte: You should watch this movie, you will understand what I mean. Mr Potter is Goldnman Sachs, George Bailey is the little trust company.

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By canbyte (registered) | Posted April 11, 2010 at 00:01:04

Grassroots Just for fun, i googled your second sentence. Here is what turned up - very interesting.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/quinn/quinn26...

This link is an abbreviated version but has comments

http://theburningplatform.com/blog/2010/...

Cheers

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By Carp Capra (anonymous) | Posted April 12, 2010 at 06:46:13

Make sure you include the proper back-line support for that urban renewal scheme: If not for the deus ex machina intervention of a careerist second-class angel, a bankrupt and disgraced George Bailey would be Bedford Falls fish food.

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