June 20, 2008

Esmark, USW to Arbitrate Over Sale

The United Steelworkers is heading into arbitration with Esmark Inc. to try to resolve a dispute over the sale of the company and its subsidiary, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel. A decision is expected by Saturday. Grievances have been filed by Esmark and the union over the proposed sale to India's Essar Steel Holdings. The union claims Esmark agreed to a buyout without giving it time to put together a competing bid. The USW has joined forces with Russia's OAO Severstal, which is competing for the company. Esmark filed a grievance against the union, accusing it of improperly interfering with a business transaction.

Verizon speeds up FiOS

Verizon Communications Inc. is boosting the speed of its FiOS fiber-optic Internet service in 10 states. The FiOS service areas of Pennsylvania as well as California, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington will see new plans that nearly double Internet speeds, Chief Operating Officer Denny Strigl said. Download speeds will be up to 50 megabits per second starting next week; customers' costs will remain the same. With the upgrade, Verizon will provide the same speeds in all 16 states where FiOS is available. Cable companies, meanwhile, plan a big boost to their own Internet services.

PNC overtime suit

U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone on Wednesday approved a deal in a civil lawsuit in which PNC Financial Services Group agreed to pay a maximum of $438,848 to settle a class-action lawsuit claiming it wrongly denied overtime pay to its financial advisers. The case was filed in February 2007 by two former employees who claimed they were denied overtime pay. The 712 class members each will receive either $900.36 or $450.36, depending on how many submit valid claims. Also to be deducted from the total settlement amount is $10,000 each for the two plaintiffs, $153,597 in legal fees and $27,590 to a third-party claims administrator.

Help for displaced workers

The U.S. Department of Labor approved a grant of up to $12.4 million to help about 5,000 Pennsylvania workers who have lost their jobs through permanent closures or layoffs. Many of the workers targeted for the aid have been certified as eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance, but the grant will be used by the PA Career Link program to help workers with services not covered under that program, said state Labor and Industry spokesman Christopher Manlove. The federal government will release $5.6 million of the grant initially.

Regus opens 3rd local center

The Dallas-based Regus Group, which already has two business center operations in the Pittsburgh region, has acquired a third at Penn Center East office/retail complex in Wilkins. "Regus, which operates these types of centers nationally, acquired the center for a nominal cost because it signed a long-term lease for the entire fourth floor in Building One," said Barry Layton, general manager of Penn Center East for its owner, LG Realty Advisors, based Downtown. No price was announced. Other Regus-operated centers are in One Oxford Centre, Downtown, and in Foster Plaza, Green Tree.

Asian dining chain growing

Teriyaki Experience, a quick serve dining chain that grew in Canada and other countries before coming to the United States last year, said Wednesday it wants to build about 20 restaurants in the Pittsburgh area. The company is looking for a developer who would find franchisees to run the Asian-themed restaurants, which cook meat and vegetables in water on a griddle as the customer watches. Tony Joseph is director of operations and a McKeesport native. Five Teriyaki Experience restaurants operate so far in the United States.

Zipcar goes to South Side

Zipcar, the car-sharing company with roughly 1,200 members and 37 vehicles in the Pittsburgh area, will expand its service to the city's South Side and add three more vehicles to its local fleet. The South Side service will begin during the week of June 23, said Denna Cox, Zipcar's general manager in Pittsburgh. Vehicles will be stationed at Sidney and 27th streets, Carson and 24th streets, Sidney and 21st streets and at 14th and Muriel streets. Members reserve cars on line for an hour or longer. Costs range from $7 to $11 per hour, and from $60 to $77 a day.

Other business news

- Specialty teen retailer rue21 of Marshall hired former American Eagle Outfitters Inc. executive Mark Chrystal as senior vice president of merchandise planning and allocation. At AE, Chrystal was vice president in the same areas for the aerie brand, and vice president of allocation for the American Eagle brand. Before that, he held positions with Disney Stores and Victoria's Secret. This year, rue21 plans to open 100 stores; the company currently has 382 stores in 41 states, including about a dozen locations in Western Pennsylvania.

- Duquesne Light Co. this week started its annual inspection by helicopter of its nearly 620 miles of transmission lines in Allegheny and Beaver counties, the Downtown-based utility said Wednesday. The inspections, to look for areas where repairs or vegetation management are needed, run daily from 7:30 a.m. to about 6 p.m. The work should be done next week.

- David Holmberg has been named president and CEO of Highmark Inc. company HVHC Inc., the for-profit firm that holds the stock of Highmark's vision care units. Holmberg also will retain the jobs of president and CEO of Eye Care Centers of America, of San Antonio, Texas.

Originally published by staff and wire reports.

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