Business news briefs for 03/30/11

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Union protests Giant Eagle cuts in work hours

A local union representing Giant Eagle employees staged a Downtown protest Tuesday afternoon, taking aim at hour cuts that they say may force members at some stores onto partial unemployment. The UFCW Local 23 joined the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee and others to protest recent schedule changes at the O'Hara-based retailer that the union alleges have halved the weekly income of some veteran workers. UFCW officials said the schedule complaints began about two weeks ago but have not been addressed by Giant Eagle management.

General Electric to buy most of Converteam

General Electric Co. announced Tuesday that it would pay $3.2 billion for most of Converteam, a worldwide energy company with its North American headquarters in RIDC Park in O'Hara. General Electric will pay Barclays Private Equity Ltd. and LBO France for the 90 percent stake in the company, which is based in Massy, France, and has more than 200 employees in the Pittsburgh region. The firm specializes in converting electricity from unconventional thermal, hydro and wind sources into "grid-quality" power. It saw $1.5 billion in sales last year and has 5,300 workers worldwide.

Alle-Kiski nurses union ratifies new contract

About nine months after voting to form a union, nurses and support staff at Alle-Kiski Medical Center delivered a new contract that was ratified Monday night. The new contract allows for raises of about 3 percent for the members of the union, establishes staffing guidelines and prevents the hospital from subcontracting union jobs.

UPMC Health Plan offers its own dental plan

UPMC Health Plan has begun offering its own dental plan, called UPMC Dental Advantage. Previously, UPMC Health Plan subscribers have purchased dental insurance through a third-party dental insurer. Since the plan was first offered in January, UPMC Health Plan officials say 15 employer groups representing more than 11,000 members have signed, and the network now includes more than 1,300 providers in 16 Western Pennsylvania counties.

Survey: Businesses see more revenue, little hiring

A survey of Pennsylvania small business owners found more than half expected revenues to grow in the next year, but that nearly three-quarters said they would either stay with the same number of employees or lay off workers. The survey by SMC Business Councils, which has offices in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, also showed 58 percent considered new health care laws a challenge to their business. Other challenges owners said they faced were taxes (38 percent), regulations (34 percent), the economy (34 percent) and the cost of doing business (27 percent) .

Charming to close 240 stores, many Fashion Bugs

Charming Shoppes Inc., in Bensalem, Pa., plans to close about 240 unprofitable stores this year, more than half of them in its Fashion Bug chain. The company, which has more than 2,000 stores total, also operates Catherines Plus Sizes, Lane Bryant and Cacique locations.

Feds weigh manslaughter charges vs. BP managers

Federal prosecutors are considering whether to pursue manslaughter charges against BP managers for decisions made before the Gulf of Mexico oil well explosion last year that killed 11 workers and caused the biggest offshore spill in U.S. history, according to three people familiar with the matter. Federal investigators also are examining statements made by leaders of the companies involved in the spill -- such as former BP CEO Tony Hayward -- during congressional hearings last year to see if their testimony was at odds with what they knew, one of the people said. All three spoke on condition they not be named because they weren't authorized to discuss the case publicly. Charging individuals would be significant to environmental safety cases because it might change behavior, said University of Maryland law professor Jane Barrett.

Tasty Baking seeks more time to file earnings report

The maker of Tastykakes has asked federal regulators for more time to file its annual earnings report while it seeks to sell or seek new financing for the struggling company. Tasty Baking requested a 15-day extension Friday for its fourth-quarter and annual reports. The Philadelphia-based maker of Kandy Kakes and Krimpets said in January financial difficulties could force a merger or sale after a new $78 million production facility and warehouse failed to produce projected savings. Tasty Baking received about $6.5 million in public and private financing after it announced its financial difficulties.

Also in business ...

Michael Baker Corp. said it won a contract to provide environmental services to the National Park Service that is worth up to $2 million in the first year and provides for four option years valued at up to $2 million each.


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