Archive for March, 2011

UAW vying for new GM products in contract talks

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 | Finance News

LAKE ORION, Michigan (Reuters) – The United Auto Workers will seek a commitment from General Motors Co (GM.N) to build new products at two idled plants in Tennessee and Wisconsin in upcoming contract negotiations, a top union official said.

Joe Ashton, the UAW's vice president for GM, said on Tuesday it would be easier to reopen the now-idle assembly line at its Spring Hill, Tennessee plant, where GM still builds engines and has stamping operations.

By contrast, there is no production at GM's plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, where only a few security workers maintain the property.

Getting new jobs will be a priority for the UAW in upcoming contract talks, Ashton told reporters at GM's Orion Assembly Center in Michigan, which later this year will begin making the Chevrolet Sonic and Buick Verano.

"We're going to put a big emphasis on jobs," Ashton said, comparing this year's talks with those of four years ago.

"We could talk about wages, which is really important to our membership," Ashton added. "But if you don't have jobs, as you can see, wages really don't mean as much."

The union was still going into the talks "the same way we have in the past," Ashton said. "But we do know it's a different time. We want to remain competitive."

Later this year, the Orion assembly plant will have 1,550 workers on two shifts. Forty percent of those hourly workers will make what is called a second-tier wage. This wage is about half what the majority of the workers at the plant will make.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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Renault talks about "mess" get aired

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 | Finance News

PARIS (Reuters) – The espionage turned fraud scandal that has dogged Renault for months took a new turn on Tuesday as French media aired secret recordings of one of the automaker's executives begging its former security boss to help it "get out of this mess."

"Help us to get out of this mess in one piece," Renault's general counsel and compliance officer Christian Husson said to Dominique Gevrey, the ex-security manager now accused of fraud in the case, in secret recordings of the meeting released by magazine L'Express and France 2 television.

The meeting between Husson, Gevrey and the company's lawyer Jean Reinhart, took place on February 14, when Renault still believed it was a victim of industrial spying. The automaker was eventually forced to apologize to and promise to compensate the three men it had accused and fired in the case.

"We don't live in the world of the police, we live in a world of management, an internationally-listed company. So we're in a mess. Help us get out of it," Husson went on.

Gevrey for his part assured the others that he had a written report containing information about his supposed source, but that it was not in his office, but in Brussels.

"From the start, I've said, 'be careful !' What we have won't stand up in a court," he adds in the recording.

Renault said it was "shocking" that such a recording, which it said was made by Gevrey without the others' knowledge, should be made public.

Renault had submitted the minutes of the meeting, which was called to make Gevrey reveal his source and cooperate with the police, to the authorities, it said in an emailed statement.

Reinhart told Reuters on Wednesday the conversation had planted the first seeds of doubt about Gevrey.

"We came out of the meeting and we said to ourselves, 'this guy is taking us for a ride,'. We could no longer exclude the possibility of fraud," he said.

Investors shrugged off the revelations and bid up the automaker's shares 2.4 percent, making it the day's top gainer among European car companies. So far this year, though, Renault's shares are the sector's biggest decliners.

French industry minister Eric Besson has said he is against "destabilizing" the company in the face of questions over whether Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, who is also head of alliance partner Nissan Motor, should keep his job after the scandal.

Ghosn and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Pelata said they would forgo their 2010 bonuses because of the affair, which has embarrassed the company and the government -- Renault is 15 percent state-owned.

Pelata tendered his resignation earlier this month but Ghosn refused to accept it.

In a related development, police on Monday interviewed as a witness a Belgian man named by Gevrey as his source, who said he had never passed any information to Gevrey, website Mediapart reported.

An independent magistrate is trying to determine if other people were involved in the affair and to find the money Renault paid, part of which is in Swiss bank accounts belonging to Gevrey.

Michel Luc, an employee of a private security company, was also placed under investigation last week after serving as an intermediary to help Gervey organize what he said was the paying of his source. Luc has been released on bail.

(Writing by Helen Massy-Beresford; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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Toys R Us will pay $1.3M penalty to FTC

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 | Finance News

NEW YORK – The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that Toys R Us, the largest U.S. toy retailer, agreed to pay $1.3 million to settle civil charges that it violated an agency order barring it from discussing its discount-chain competitors with its suppliers.

The FTC said between 1999 and 2010, Toys R Us violated the order by complaining via its Babies R Us subsidiary to several suppliers about the discounts other retailers were giving on baby products and requesting information about how companies supplied products to discounters.

The FTC said Toys R Us also deleted some emails of employees who left the company that it was required to keep.

The 1998 order came about after the FTC found Toys R Us used its position as the top U.S. toy retailer to stop toy makers from selling some toys to warehouse clubs.

That has not happened since, but the FTC said that Toys R Us did not comply with other parts of the 1998 order.

"Although we did not find evidence that Toys R Us entered into agreements with the suppliers that violated the order, the penalty here underscores the importance of parties complying fully with all of their order obligations," said Richard A. Feinstein, director of the FTC Bureau of Competition.

"We are pleased that this matter is fully resolved and is now behind us," said Kathleen Waugh, spokeswoman for privately held Toys R Us, based in Wayne, N.J.

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