Tap runs dry for Molson retirees

Retirees from Molson Brewing Company in Canada are learning that their retirement benefits are being cut and the worst news is that they can't even cry in their beers about the change.

Molson will begin phasing out the $1 million a year free beer program for retirees over the next five years as well as cutting back its free beer program for current employees, lowering their take from 72 dozen bottles a year to 52 dozen a year.

The move was met with anger by retirees who feel shortchanged. One, quoted by the Toronto Star, feels that Molson is simply using the economy to cut benefits without any actual need to do so. Unions representing the retirees have already filed grievances over the sobering change in pension benefits.

The allegations may have some merit as Molson-Coors, the parent company of Molson, has had a blockbuster year, with quarterly earnings up 51% compared to a year ago.

The brothers who make up the Molson family brewing company are also duking it out with a Canadian Telecom to purchase 80% of the outstanding ownership of the Montreal Canadiens, an NHL team which Molson already owns 20% of.

Despite the cutback up north, Anheuser-Busch is still offering complimentary beer to its employees as part of a comprehensive benefits package that also includes access to fitness centers, likely to cut down on an abundance of beer bellies around company headquarters.

The company did however cut back on free beer earlier this year when it announced that it would no longer offer free beer at Anheuser-Busch theme parks.

Any changes in pension benefits do raise concerns but the fact that Molson is cutting beer and not health coverage makes the uproar and protests a bit harder to swallow. Who knows? It might even cut the health costs of retirees in the long run.
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