Here’s a look at some of the business news we’ve been following this week at the Erie Times-News:
First, this from the Associated Press:
Google Inc. is working on a new operating system for inexpensive computers in a daring attempt to diminish Microsoft Corp.’s long-standing control over people’s computer experience.
The new system announced Tuesday night on Google’s web site, will be based on the company’s Web browser, Chrome. Google intends to rely on help from the community of open-source programmers to develop the Chrome operating system, which is expected to begin running computers in the second half of 2010.
Closer to home, Crawford County’s leading industrial employer will temporarily lose up to 6 percent of its work force starting Monday.
Channellock Inc., maker of the widely known blue-handled pliers and other assorted hand tools, is looking to temporarily lay off 20 to 25 of its employees, just six months after all 405 of the company’s workers took a 20 percent cut in their paychecks.
“We stockpiled a lot of inventory, and the demand hasn’t picked up, “ said Michelle King, communications and training manager at the family-owned business. “With the lack of sales, if you’re not making any money, you can only go so long — not that we’re not making any money. It is the economy. We’ve tried to avoid it since February.”
They celebrated Friday in Kazakhstan as GE Transportation christened its newest locomotive plant, which is set to open later this year.
The grand opening prompted visits from Lorenzo Simonelli, chief executive of the company, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Jim Pifer, president of Local 506 of the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America at GE Transportation, acknowledged he has a hard time getting excited about the new plant, which will have the capacity to build about 100 Evolution locomotives each year.
“I suppose as a stockholder it would be good news, “ he said. “But it doesn’t have any real effect or benefit for the people that I represent.”
Stephan Koller, spokesman for the company, begs to differ, reminding Pifer that workers in Erie and Grove City are still building high-value kits from which those locomotives are assembled.
The management of FirstEnergy Corp.’s Penelec division is offering union members an increase in wages or a change in the scheduling system –– but not both.
The two sides met July 1 for the third time since more than 500 members of Local 459 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers walked off the job on May 21. No agreement was reached.
Greg Wolf, an assistant business manager for the union, said the company and union are discussing a pay increase. Wolf said the union also wants a new scheduling system for its members.
So far, he said, Penelec has offered its employees only one or the other.
“If we get the kind of scheduling we’re looking for, then we would get a zero percent pay increase, and I don’t think any of us feel that’s reasonable in these times, “ Wolf said. “Right now, the only way we’ll make more money is if we agree to their scheduling terms.”