In the Region Hospital workers stage one-day strike...

BUSINESS DIGEST

March 15, 2001

In the Region

Hospital workers stage one-day strike; Jackson to speak

Hospital workers arguing for higher wages and greater unionization power are staging a 24-hour strike today against Johns Hopkins Hospital, Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Sinai Hospital.

The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson will speak at Wyman Park during a late-morning rally for the workers, members of District 1199E-DC of the Service Employees International Union.

This is the second daylong strike that the union, which represents about 2,500 patient-care aides and workers in housekeeping, maintenance and food service, has staged since contract negotiations broke down with the three hospitals.

Frederick News-Post remains family owned

The Randall Family LLC has completed its purchase of the Frederick News-Post in a deal extending the daily newspaper's tradition of family ownership into a fourth generation.

The Randalls, headed by George E. Randall, agreed in July to buy the business from Great Southern Printing and Manufacturing Co., headed by George Randall's uncle, George Delaplaine Jr., for an undisclosed sum.

The deal includes The Job Shop, a small commercial printing operation, and GS Net.Works, which develops and hosts World Wide Web sites. The News-Post was founded in 1883 as The News by William T. Delaplaine Sr.

Virco completes merger, moves to Rockville

Virco Group NV, which until recently had its U.S. headquarters in Baltimore, says it has completed its merger with Tibotec Group NV.

Mechelen, Belgium-based Tibotec-Virco NV combines Tibotec's expertise in drug discovery and development with Virco's strengths in molecular diagnostics. Virco is known for its tests measuring HIV drug resistance.

Employees of Virco Lab Inc. at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Campus are moving the subsidiary's operations to Rockville, the new U.S. headquarters for the combined company.

Gilden agency lays off 12 employees; move still on

Gilden Integrated, a Baltimore advertising agency, has laid off 12 of its 72 employees to streamline operations in the wake of the downturn in the high-technology sector.

The remaining 60 employees at the firm, which specializes in high-tech clients, are expected to move to new office space in Hampden by May 1. The long-planned move will occur once renovations are completed at the former Apostolic Truth Tabernacle Church, which was destroyed by fire in 1999.

Elsewhere

AT&T seeks to sell cable TV systems at discount prices

AT&T Corp. ended the U.S. cable-television industry's last round of consolidation by paying $100 billion over the past two years to become the largest provider. Now it's starting a new round by selling assets at a discount.

To raise cash and pay down debt, which soared 81 percent to $65 billion at year-end, the company is selling cable systems where it doesn't have large clusters of subscribers. It's getting about half of recent per-subscriber prices in these sales, and rivals are expected to follow AT&T's lead.

Adelphia Communications Corp. and AT&T want to sell about $14 billion worth of cable systems with 4.5 million customers, investors say, a sum not spent since AT&T paid $44 billion last June for MediaOne Group Inc. Paul Allen's Charter Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. are likely buyers.

Cox Communications Inc. may also sell some systems, investors say. They predict that the nine largest U.S. cable operators will be cut to six by 2003.

Court rules against union in United Airlines dispute

A federal appeals panel ruled yesterday that the union representing mechanics at United Airlines has played a part in work slowdowns and said a court order barring such activity must be imposed.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in Chicago, said U.S. District Judge William J. Hibbler was wrong in his Dec. 13 refusal to grant a temporary injunction requiring the union to take action to halt the slowdowns. The appellate court directed Hibbler to issue a preliminary injunction and set a date for a hearing on whether to issue a permanent injunction.

United maintains that the International Association of Machinists has been taking jetliners out of service on the pretext of safety problems to pressure the airline in stalled contract talks. The union, which represents 15,000 United mechanics, has insisted that it has had nothing to do with any work slowdowns.

Airlines hurt by slowdown in high-fare business travel

Northwest Airlines may lose $150 million this quarter as companies curb travel costs in a slowing U.S. economy. It is the second airline in two days to say a reduction in high-fare business customers will hurt results.

The No. 4 U.S. carrier disclosed the loss, estimated at $1.55 to $1.80 a share, in a letter to investors and analysts yesterday that was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Analysts had predicted a loss of 59 cents a share.

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