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UAW members at GM in West Mifflin OK pact

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007

Workers at General Motors Corp.'s metal stamping plant in West Mifflin approved a four-year labor contract Friday with the automaker. United Auto Workers Local 544 approved the national labor contract by a vote of 123 to 74, said Dennis Hanko of Port Vue, one of the local union's vote counters. The deal was approved by 62 percent of the local union members who voted, which is about the same level at which the contract has been approved by local unions at GM plants in Michigan, said Hanko. Voting is continuing among GM's 73,000 UAW members and is expected to conclude by Wednesday. The deal was reached last week after a two-day nationwide strike against GM. The wages and benefits set in the contract would cover the UAW members at the West Mifflin plant if GM reaches an agreement to sell the plant, said Rick Vargesko, president of Local 544. GM has set a Dec. 15 deadline to sell the plant, Vargesko said.

US Airways traffic up

US Airways said passenger boardings rose 2.7 percent to 4.31 million in September and were up 2.6 percent to almost 44.32 million for the first nine months. The percentage of filled seats in September, or load factor, increased by 5.4 points to 78.1 percent largely because the airline decreased capacity by 4.8 percent from the year earlier. US Airways' capacity through nine months declined 0.5 percent, while its load factor improved 2.2 points to 81.6 percent. Separately, the airline yesterday confirmed its June order for 92 Airbus jets, including 32 wide-bodies. The 22 A-350 aircraft with about 300 seats and 10 A-330 with about 265 seats will be used for international flights after deliveries begin in 2009. The 60 narrow-body A-320 aircraft, which seat about 145, will be delivered starting next year.

Wizzard juggles board

Wizzard Software juggled its board of directors in an effort to get listed on the American Stock Exchange. The board on Thursday accepted the resignations of Armen Geronian and Gordon Berry. They were replaced by Greg Smith, Douglas Polinsky and Denis Yevstifeyev so the board will have a majority of independent directors, as required by AMEX. Geronian will continue as the Oakland company's chief technology officer and Berry still supervises its health care operations. Wizzard develops speech-based technologies, and recently entered the field of podcasting.

Credit lockdown privileges spread

Major credit bureaus Experian and Equifax on Thursday joined TransUnion and said they will, this year, let people in all 50 states freeze their credit histories. Experian's service, which goes into effect Nov. 1, is the latest big victory for anyone who wants to be proactive about preventing identity theft, consumer advocates say. The decision by all three bureaus to offer national freezes will let consumers lock down their credit histories -- especially if they are a victim of identity theft. Until now, a patchwork of laws in 39 states allowed consumers, to varying degrees, to protect themselves.

GE changes won't affect local plant

General Electric Co.'s Bridgeville lighting plant won't be affected by a lighting business restructuring plan announced earlier this week by the corporation. GE's Louisville, Ky.-based Consumer & Industrial unit said it's closing "some" lighting operations in the U.S., impacting about 425 jobs, with some of those positions being transferred to other lighting facilities. Another 900 jobs would be impacted by General Electric closing all lighting operations in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Other business news

• Chevron Corp. has formed a research alliance with Penn State University under which Chevron will provide up to $17.5 million over five years to develop coal conversion technologies. The research effort will focus on coal chemistry and conversion technology, advanced fuels, combustion, analysis methods, reactor science, separations, process technology and carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas management and conversion.

• Consol Energy Inc. has added to its riverboat business with the acquisition for an undisclosed price of Tri-River Fleeting Harbor Services Inc., and Tri-River Marine Inc., both based in the South Side. Sixty employees join Consol, with assets acquired including eight towboats, increasing the Consol fleet to 27. With the deal, Consol branches into transporting aggregates and other materials in addition to coal.

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