Business Briefs
Star-Bulletin staff & wire reports





Companies plan to shift health costs to workers

NEW YORK » The nation's employers are struggling with close to double-digit increases in health care costs in 2006, and consequently will be shifting more of that burden to their employees, according to a new survey of more than 1,800 firms.

The preliminary survey, released yesterday by Mercer Human Resource Consulting, found that employers anticipate an almost 10 percent increase in health care costs next year, about three times the rate of general inflation, if they leave benefits unchanged.

But companies that were polled in the survey -- both those that purchase insurance and firms that are self-insured -- are only earmarking an average increase of 6.4 percent in their spending. That will mark the third consecutive year that employers are seeing their actual health care costs slow as they pass on more of the costs to their workers.

Wal-Mart accused of sweatshops

LOS ANGELES » A lawsuit filed yesterday accuses Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of failing to monitor labor conditions at overseas factories that allegedly maintained sweatshop conditions.

The suit seeks class-action status and claims Southern California grocery workers were harmed because Wal-Mart's low prices -- made possible by alleged substandard overseas factories -- force competing grocery chains to cut wages and benefits.

Beth Keck, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said the Bentonville, Ark.-based company had not seen the lawsuit but had begun researching the issues it raises.

Ex-Microsoft exec can join Google

SEATTLE » Ruling in a case that exposed animosity between two high-tech titans, a Washington state judge said yesterday that a former Microsoft Corp. executive may begin working at Google Inc. in a limited capacity. A Microsoft executive later said his company was prepared to settle the litigation if the researcher's restrictions remained in effect until next summer.

Kai-Fu Lee still cannot work on products, services or projects he worked on at Microsoft, including computer search technology, pending a trial set for January. King County Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez said a noncompete agreement Lee signed with Microsoft is valid.

But Gonzalez said recruiting and staffing a Google center in China would not violate that agreement. Although Lee cannot set budget or compensation levels or define the research that Google will do in China, Gonzalez said, he can hire people to work there.

ATA union workers authorize strike

INDIANAPOLIS » The union representing 800 ATA pilots and flight mechanics has voted to authorize a strike, but its spokesman said yesterday that renewed negotiations have begun with the bankrupt airline.

"We have made progress," said Rusty Ayers, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association.

He declined to disclose the vote total for 15 days of balloting on the issue, which ended Monday. Before pilots can strike, the walkout must be approved by the head of the Air Line Pilots Association.

Indianapolis-based ATA, which is owned by ATA Holdings Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. It has cut about 3,100 jobs since it began reducing a work force of about 7,800 people two years ago.

Google could raise another $4.4 billion

Google Inc., the most-used Internet search engine, may raise $4.4 billion today in its first stock sale since going public, the largest such offering in more than 10 years.

The sale will allow Google to bolster its cash reserves to compete with Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft Corp. for Internet users and advertisers. Google last month unveiled software to make phone calls over the Internet and said it may make acquisitions.

Shares of Google have surged 9.3 percent since Aug. 18 when it announced the plan to sell 14.159 million shares. The increase will mean Mountain View, Calif.-based Google may raise $375 million more than it would have based on last month's price.

In other news ...

SAN FRANCISCO » About 800 hospital workers walked off the job yesterday at California Pacific Medical Center after management didn't sign a contract settlement proposed by a federal mediator.


New Jobs

» Wellness Institute International has hired Dr. Michael McGriff. He will be responsible for focusing on laser skin therapies, Botox and other specialty skin care services and facial treatments. He has been in private practice since 1995.

» Peter Vincent and Associates has hired Garry Neavitt as senior project manager and Masashi Kato as an associate. Neavitt has over 20 years of experience in a full range of architectural services. Kato has four years of experience as an architectural designer and project manager.


» Hilton Waikoloa Village has appointed Peggy Nose beverage director. She will oversee 10 beverage outlets and supervise more than 700 employees. She began her career with the resort in 1993.

» ResortQuest Hawaii has appointed Deborah Lewis general manager of the ResortQuest Paki Maui condominium resort. She has 21 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

On the Board

» Hilo Hattie has appointed Justin Kai Romig to its advisory board. The son of Hilo Hattie founder Jim Romig, Justin is attending Santa Clara University and plans to take the California state bar exam. He previously served as a Home Depot general assistant store manager.

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