BUSINESS TEL:   281.593.1690

BUSINESS FAX:  832.218.1996

Breaking News

Today’s Labor Updates

Today’s Labor Updates:

Brazil’s Bottomless Pit Economy Producing More Labor Strikes

Unions sue General Electric for cutting retiree healthcare plans


Nov 10, 2015 @ 07:57 AM

Brazil’s Bottomless Pit Economy Producing More Labor Strikes

This might only get worse.

Petrobras oil workers have gone against their word and their labor walk-out has now cut into production to the tune of roughly 120,000 barrels on Friday, the Brazilian oil major said. Two petroleum labor unions aren’t protesting for more pay or better working conditions. They’re protesting against its government owners, who are busy selling off Petrobras assets in order to lower its massive debt burden, which is one of the biggest corporate debts in the world.

On Monday, the company said that striking workers have affected 11 refineries and 58 drilling rigs in Brazil’s deep sea oil fields. The labor unions said that over 400,000 barrels of oil have ceased to be produced since the strike went into high gear this weekend.

Petrobras is its own worst enemy. Middle management organized a massive scheme to overpay its construction partners, as well as overpay for refineries — including one in Texas — in order to line the pockets of a chosen few. Many of the country’s most successful businessmen, like Marcelo Odebrecht, have wound up behind bars. Dozens of politicians also received kickbacks to permit overbilling of public contracts. The speaker of the lower house of congress, Eduardo Cunha, is being investigated for having received upwards of $5 million from a lobbying firm representing the construction and engineering firms bidding on lucrative government contracts.

Meanwhile, on the streets of 14 states in Brazil, truckers shut down roads and burnt tires in protest of fuel costs. Diesel fuel costs have risen for Brazilian companies over the last year since the subsidy was removed. Truckers also called for the impeachment of second-term president Dilma Rousseff, seen as the poster child of wrong-doing given the ongoing Petrobras investigation.  Dilma has never been implicated in the scandal, unlike other members of her party and its allies.

Fraud at Petrobras has been equated with fraud in the Dilma administration. Her approval rating is at an all-time low of 8%, according to polling firms Ibope and Datafolha. The negative sentiment in Brazil has made the country only interesting to deep value investors. 

The economy continues to deteriorate. Inflation is inching towards 10% despite a slightly stronger currency. Interest rates have remained unchanged for the past two monetary policy meetings, still holding court at 14.25%. But with inflation hitting 10%, it is more likely than not that interest rates will rise despite the recession.  Economists surveyed by the Central Bank of Brazil said they expect a 3.10% contraction in GDP this year. Next year will see no growth. Zero would be fantastic.


Unions sue General Electric for cutting retiree healthcare plans

Posted: Nov 09, 2015 1:54 PM CST

By Chris Otts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A coalition of labor unions representing General Electric workers has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the company’s decision earlier this year to cut supplemental healthcare and prescription drug coverage for retirees.

As WDRB reported in July, GE will no longer provide supplemental Medicare plans to about 130,000 former hourly workers and their spouses across the country — the latest in a series of moves aimed at cutting the company’s expenses for retiree benefits.

The changes take effect Jan. 1, 2016. Instead of GE’s company-sponsored plans – which help cover doctor, hospital and prescription costs that Medicare doesn’t pay – the retirees will get to pick from private plans with GE providing a “Medicare Reimbursement Account” of $1,000 per person, per year.

On Monday, a coalition of unions and more than 20 individual retirees filed suit in the Northern District of Ohio.

The unions say GE’s actions violate federal labor law and the Employer Retirement Income Security Act.

The coalition is led by IUE-CWA, which represents about 3,800 hourly workers at GE Appliance Park in Louisville. The group, which is seeking class-action status, includes two local retirees: William Spires, of Louisville, and Randal Payton, of Taylorsville.

“We are outraged that a very profitable General Electric Corp. would choose to break promises to its retirees during the most vulnerable time of their lives, after they gave decades of service to this company,” IUE-CWA President James Clark said in news release.

General Electric defended the moves, which were announced in a letter to retirees July 20.

“GE acted properly, lawfully and consistent with collective bargaining requirements in making changes to the post-65 supplemental Medicare and prescription drug benefits for retired union members,” the company said in a prepared statement Monday. “These changes are consistent with trends among other large companies.”

Comments are closed.