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Regulators reject workers' comp cut

By wire services
Published October 28, 2005

Florida insurance regulators have rejected a proposed 7.2 percent cut in worker's compensation premiums, saying the reduction should be nearly twice as much because of changes the Legislature made in 2002 to the workers' compensation system.

Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty ordered the National Council on Compensation Insurance, a Boca Raton group that submits such rate filings nationwide, to refile its rate request, which was to have taken effect Jan. 1. McCarty said he would accept a reduction of 13.5 percent. NCCI said it disagreed with McCarty's decision but would review his order before deciding its next step.

Southwest adding flights in Tampa

Southwest Airlines announced plans Thursday to beef up service at Tampa International Airport. On Nov. 12, the airline will restore two of six daily flights to New Orleans canceled after Hurricane Katrina. It also will add a daily flight each to Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Nashville, St. Louis and Fort Lauderdale starting Feb. 5. The new service will increase Southwest's daily departures from Tampa International to more than 70, said airport director Louis Miller.

Group gets $651M from WorldCom

A group of state and local retirement funds and insurance companies recovered $651-million from WorldCom's investment banks, auditors and company officers in a settlement announced Thursday. As part of the settlement, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase & Co., two of the defendants in several non-class action suits filed by the funds, agreed to jointly petition the Securities and Exchange Commission for more stringent disclosures by banks underwriting future stock and bond offerings.

Hurricane jobless claims hit 502,000

The Labor Department reported Thursday that 24,000 more workers who lost jobs because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita filed applications for unemployment benefits last week. That pushed the total over the past eight weeks to 502,000 hurricane-related claims.

New home sales climb, but prices fall

A Commerce Department report on Thursday showed new home sales climbed by 2.1 percent in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.22-million units, but the median price fell 5.7 percent from the August level to $215,700. Sales of existing homes were unchanged in September.

Delphi bankruptcy plan approved

A bankruptcy court judge on Thursday approved a $2-billion financing plan for auto parts maker Delphi Corp., which filed for bankruptcy protection this month. The plan allows the company to pay everyday expenses such as employee salaries. The judge also allowed Delphi to continue shifting money from its U.S. unit to its business units in 40 countries.

Can they afford to call Freddy Krueger?

Five days before Florida phone customers see the biggest rate hike in history, consumer advocates Ben Wilcox and Walter Dartland evoked the Halloween spirit in a Tallahassee news conference Thursday to mark "The Nightmare on Phone Street."

Wilcox, executive director of Florida Common Cause, and Dartland, who leads the Consumer Action Federation of the Southeast, joined advocacy group AARP and others to deride "monster" increases in local phone rates, which come nearly 18 months after the state Legislature greatly relaxed its oversight. In the Tampa Bay area, consumers can expect a 10 to 24 percent increase in their local phone rates starting Tuesday.

You gotta go? You better hold it at Ford

You know things are tense at work when management starts timing rest room breaks. But beleaguered Ford Motor Co. is doing just that.

In a memo that was distributed Tuesday to workers at Ford's Michigan Truck plant in Wayne, Mich., plant managers said too many of the factory's 3,500 hourly workers are spending more than the 48 minutes allotted per shift to use the bathroom. The extra-long breaks are slowing production of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicles that are built there, the company said.

"In today's competitive environment, it is important that Michigan Truck plant immediately address this concern to avoid the risks associated with safety, quality, delivery, cost and morale," the memo said.

Ford supervisors will begin collecting weekly data on the amount of time workers spend on bathroom breaks and "respond appropriately," the memo said.

Other chatter

MCDONALD'S TO SELL ORGANIC COFFEE: McDonald's Corp. will begin selling organic coffee at its New England restaurants next month. The deal calls for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. of Waterbury, Vt., to supply Newman's Own Organics blend coffee to more than 650 McDonald's restaurants in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and in the Albany, N.Y., region.

GM GOING SMALL WITH SUVS: General Motors Corp. plans to introduce a new small SUV as it moves to double the number of car-based crossover models it sells to 14 by 2010. The new model will be smaller than its Chevrolet Equinox, Pontiac Torrent and Saturn Vue, GM vice president for global portfolio planning Ron Pniewski said Thursday. He would not say when the little SUV will go on sale.

HOW DO YOU STACK UP?: If you've ever wondered where your income stacks up against everyone else, the Congress' Joint Economic Committee, using IRS data, is happy to tell you, at least for 2003. That year, if your adjusted gross income was $295,495 or more, you were in the top 1 percent of taxpayers. At $130,080, you were in the top 5 percent; at $94,891, the top 10 percent; at $57,343, the top 25 percent; and at $29,019, the top half.

Information from Times staff writer Joni James, the Detroit News, the Associated Press, the Detroit Free Press and the Washington Post was used in this report.

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