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Bankrupt brewer wants to end pension plan

| Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006

Bankrupt Pittsburgh Brewing Co. is seeking to end its participation in a union-sponsored pension plan as part of contract concessions demanded from workers, a union representative said Monday. The bid to replace the plan with a 401(k) package has been a key sticking point in negotiations with two union locals representing about 135 bottlers and brewers at the Lawrenceville brewery, said George Sharkey, a business agent for the International Union of Electrical Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 144B. The existing plan covers current workers and employees who have retired since the company stopped making payments on an another retirement plan in 1995, Sharkey said. Liability for the old plan has since been taken over by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. On Sunday, union members voted 93-0 to reject a "final offer" concessions packages demanded by the company, which is expected to ask a federal bankruptcy judge to terminate its existing contract and impose concessions on the workers.

More spending on homes

Americans are becoming increasingly house poor. Homeowners in every state but one spent more of their incomes on housing costs last year than at the start of the decade, according to data released today by the Census Bureau. Those in Alaska spent the same. Nationwide, homeowners spent nearly 21 percent of their incomes on housing costs last year, up from just under 19 percent in 1999. Housing analysts blamed surging home prices, higher interest rates and lower incomes. "It is now much more difficult for first-time homebuyers to get into the market, and for existing homeowners to trade up," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com.

Alcoa makes 'final' offer

Aluminum manufacturer Alcoa Inc. has released what it calls its final contract offer for 830 union workers at its Cleveland Works. The proposed four-year contract would offer wage increases of nearly 9 percent and improvements to the pension formula. The proposal also includes limitations on mandatory overtime, which the United Auto Workers union has been seeking. The union says the proposal would allow salaried workers to do union work, and workers would have to pay part of their health care premiums. The offer was made Friday, the day the contract expired. Union members could vote on it this week.

Firm pays $150K penalty

Pittsburgh-based American Iron Oxide Co. said Monday it paid $150,000 to settle civil penalty claims initiated by the state Department of Environmental Protection for alleged environmental violations at the company's acid regeneration and iron oxide production facility in Allenport, Washington County. The company had two acid tank failures in 2004. American Oxide said it previously agreed to compliance measures to resolve the state agency's allegations of violations of environmental requirements relating to air emissions, storage tank and stormwater discharges.

USW to end Goodyear pact

The union that represents 14,000 Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employees at 12 plants told the tire maker on Monday that it plans to terminate its day-to-day contract extension Thursday afternoon if a new agreement isn't reached. Talks have been under way in Cincinnati between the United Steelworkers and the company on a contract to replace the three-year agreement that expired July 22. Both sides agreed at the time to the day-to-day extension, with either side able to terminate it with a three-day notice. The termination could lead to a strike or lockout.

Mellon completes acquisition

Mellon Financial Corp. said Monday it completed the acquisition of investment manager Walter Scott & Partners Ltd., Edinburgh, Scotland. The addition of Walter Scott's roughly $29 billion in managed investments gives Mellon about $900 billion under management. In connection with the acquisition, Mellon issued about $5 million in restricted shares, or roughly 239,400 shares. The total deal value was not disclosed. Walter Scott, which Mellon agreed to acquire last May, will keep its name and location.

Goodfellow moves HQ

Goodfellow Cambridge Ltd., a British-owned specialty materials supplier, this month will move the headquarters of Goodfellow Corp., its U.S. operation, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. The unit, a supplier of metals, alloys, ceramics and polymers for research, development, protoyping and specialized manufacturing applications, will move into the Imperial Business Park, a 325-acre industrial park being developed by CSG Properties in North Fayette. The company hopes to create 20 area jobs in three years, according to the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance.

Surma: Steel demand slowing

John P. Surma, CEO of U.S. Steel Corp. and newly elected chairman of the International Iron & Steel Institute, said growth in global steel demand is slowing as economic expansion decelerates. Demand for the metal is "on a more gentle upward slope," said Surma, speaking to reporters at a conference in Buenos Aires on Monday. "There will be some moderation in economic growth in 2007," Surma said. He suggested there may be future mergers and acquisitions in the steel industry. "I see no reason to suggest that consolidation is concluded."

Other business news

• James Rohr, chairman and CEO of PNC Financial Services Group, was named to receive the Woodrow Wilson Award for Corporate Citizenship from the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Rohr becomes the first major U.S. banker to receive the honor, the Washington organization said.

• Gasoline prices fell to a seven-month low, dropping 6.8 cents to a nationwide average $2.31 a gallon, a government report showed. Prices in the week ended Monday were the lowest since Feb. 27, according to the weekly survey of about 800 filling stations by the U.S. Energy Department.

• Pennsylvania State University leased 2,100 square feet in the newly renovated retail corridor at the Liberty Center complex Downtown for its Community Recruitment Center and a new Continuing Education Office. The recruitment center is relocating from the Point Breeze section of Pittsburgh.

• Pittsburgh-area stocks fell Monday. The Bloomberg Pittsburgh Index of 69 stocks fell 1.14 to 289.28.

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