Bill to pressure National Grid to end its lockout scheduled for hearing next month

LABOR

Bill to pressure National Grid to end its lockout scheduled for hearing next month

A bill that would put pressure on National Grid to end its lockout of 1,250 union gas workers has finally gained traction and is bound for a public hearing next month. The bill, filed in July by Representative James O’Day, Democrat of West Boylston, would prohibit National Grid from being granted rate increases or using public funds for maintenance work during the lockout, and would require the utility to provide health insurance to the locked out workers. The bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on Thursday. O’Day said it was high time the bill was heard “given some of the things that have transpired over the past month or so,” referring to the gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, which involved Columbia Gas, and National Grid’s overpressurization incident in Woburn, which led to state regulators imposing a moratorium on all work not involving emergencies or compliance. The presidents of the two locked-out unions, United Steelworkers Locals 12003 and 12012, also talked to House Speaker Robert DeLeo about a separate bill that would extend their unemployment benefits beyond the typical 26 to 30 weeks. The National Grid workers have been locked out since June 25 over a contract dispute involving increased health care costs and reduced retirement benefits for new hires. “One of our fears is that [National Grid is] just waiting for the unemployment benefits to run out,” said John Buonopane, president of Local 12012. “If that’s not an issue, I think they’d be more likely to be serious.” — KATIE JOHNSTON

LABOR

Baker campaign avoids hotel strike conflict

Governor Charlie Baker’s campaign isn’t taking any chances with the Unite Here Local 26 strike. The Baker campaign has moved its election night operation, for Nov. 6, out of the Sheraton Boston hotel, one of the seven Marriott-operated hotels where Local 26 members are out on strike. Instead, the campaign will set up at the Hynes Convention Center next door. Local 26 president Brian Lang praised “our good friend Governor Baker for his leadership and act of solidarity.” About 1,500 workers have been out on strike since Oct. 3. — JON CHESTO

CYBERSECURITY

Cathay Pacific Airways target of world’s biggest airline data breach

Cathay Pacific Airways said a hacker accessed personal information of 9.4 million customers, becoming the target of the world’s biggest airline data breach. The airline’s shares sank the most in almost two years, shaving $201 million off its market value, after the Hong Kong-based carrier disclosed the unauthorized access late Wednesday, seven months after discovering the violation. While passports, addresses, and e-mails were exposed, flight safety wasn’t compromised and there was no evidence any information has been misused, it said, without revealing details of the origin of the attack. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook hit with $644,000 fine for Cambridge Analytica scandal

British regulators on Thursday slapped Facebook with a fine of 500,000 pounds ($644,000) — the maximum possible — for failing to protect the privacy of its users in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Information Commissioner Office found that between 2007 and 2014, Facebook processed the personal information of users unfairly by giving app developers access to their information without informed consent. The failings meant the data of some 87 million people was used without their knowledge. The ICO said a subset of the data was later shared with other organizations, including SCL Group, the parent company of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. News that the consultancy had used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help President Trump’s 2016 election campaign ignited a global scandal on data rights. The fine is the maximum allowed under the law at the time the breach occurred. Had the scandal taken place after new EU data protection rules went into effect this year, the amount would have been far higher — including maximum fines of 17 million pounds or 4 percent of global turnover, whichever is higher. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

WORKPLACE

Billionaire owner of Topshop named in Parliament as alleged sexual harasser

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Philip Green, the billionaire owner of the Topshop clothing chain, was named in Parliament as the British businessman alleged to have used legal agreements and payments to hide accusations of sexual harassment, racist abuse, and bullying. Peter Hain told the House of Lords on Thursday that he felt it was his ‘‘duty’’ to reveal the name under parliamentary privilege after being contacted by someone involved in the case. The accusations are the latest in the #MeToo movement that has implicated high-ranking officials and businessmen for allegedly harassing and abusing women. Hain’s statement named Green as the subject of an article in the Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday about a leading British businessman accused of sexually harassing and racially abusing his staff. A UK court prevented the newspaper from publishing details of the account, including the man’s name, the companies, the specific allegations against him or how much he paid in settlements. The businessman had nondisclosure agreements, which the court said justified an injunction. — BLOOMBERG NEWS

MORTGAGES

Rates up slightly

Mortgage rates edged slightly higher this week amid continued anxiety in financial markets as interest rates rise. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages ticked up to an average 4.86 percent this week from 4.85 percent last week. A year ago, it stood at 3.94 percent. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans rose to 4.29 percent this week from 4.26 percent last week. Home borrowing rates remain at their highest levels in more than seven years, with the key 30-year rate approaching 5 percent. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUTOMOTIVE

Ford recalling almost 1.5m Focus cars over problem with fuel system

Ford is recalling nearly 1.5 million Focus compact cars in North America because a fuel system problem can cause the engines to stall without warning. The recall covers cars from the 2012 through 2018 model years with 2-liter four-cylinder engines. Ford says a valve in the fuel system can stick in the open position, causing too much vacuum, and an engine control computer may not detect the problem. Excessive vacuum can cause the gas tank to deform, as well as other problems. Ford says owners should keep the gas tank at least half full until repairs are made. The recall is expected to begin on Dec. 10. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

PHARMACEUTICALS

Merck makes $2b profit due to cancer drug, diabetes pills

A big jump in US medicine sales, particularly for its key cancer drug, helped Merck & Co. swing to a $2 billion profit from a $56 million loss a year earlier due to large one-time charges. The maker of blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda and Januvia diabetes pills beat Wall Street’s third-quarter profit expectations and raised its 2018 profit forecast. The increase was entirely due to sales jumping 80 percent to $1.9 billion for Merck’s top seller, Keytruda, which boosts the body’s immune system to better fight cancer. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

COFFEE

Dunkin’ earnings surpass Wall Street expectations

Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. on Thursday reported third-quarter earnings of $66.1 million. The Canton-based company said it had profit of 79 cents per share. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, came to 83 cents per share. The results surpassed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 73 cents per share. — ASSOCIATED PRESS

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