In the Region Last-minute deals avert one-day strikes...

BUSINESS DIGEST

March 22, 2002

In the Region

Last-minute deals avert one-day strikes at 7 nursing homes

Last-minute settlements at two nursing homes and contract extensions at five others averted a possible one-day strike yesterday of service workers at seven facilities in the Baltimore area.

Larry Rubin of District 1199E-DC of the Service Employees International Union said contract agreements were reached late Wednesday at Pickersgill Retirement Community in Towson and Mariner Post Acute Network Overlea. That means the SEIU completed bargaining at 15 of the 20 homes where contracts were to expire this month.

On average, he said, the three-year agreements call for raises of 5.5 percent a year, with starting pay of at least $8.25. The union unsuccessfully sought contract clauses specifying minimum staffing.

Rubin said he was optimistic that agreements would be reached without work stoppages at the other five nursing homes. The SEIU represents about 1,200 nursing aides, housekeepers and dietary workers at the 20 nursing homes.

Residents spent 10% more on health practitioners

Marylanders spent 10 percent more on doctors and other health practitioners in 2000 than they spent in 1999, according to a study released yesterday by the Maryland Health Care Commission.

The increase occurred because more people were using more services, the report said, and came despite payments rates remaining level.

On average, the study said, private insurers in Maryland paid fees of 4 percent to 5 percent more than Medicare rates. The Medicare fee schedule often is used as a national benchmark.

Maryland's fees show "a relatively small differential compared to published studies of private payers' data nationwide," the report said, which "suggests that Maryland insurers have restrained increases in practitioner fees."

Gaylord Entertainment picks local ad agency

Gaylord Entertainment, one of the nation's leading hospitality and entertainment companies, has named Trahan, Burden & Charles Inc. agency of record for the marketing and advertising of Gaylord Hotels.

That new business means $8 million in billings for the Baltimore agency.

Gaylord owns and operates Gaylord Hotels-branded properties, including Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn. and the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla. Its entertainment holdings include the Grand Ole Opry, Acuff-Rose Music Publishing and WSM Radio.

Warschawski PR firm lands four clients

Warschawski Public Relations announced recently that is has added four clients to its roster within the past month.

That new business includes Washington-based Hair Cuttery, the nation's largest privately owned salon chain with more than 800 locations; Bethesda-based Access Spectrum LLC, which provides a digital format for wireless, voice and data communications; Titan Digital Communications of Baltimore, which delivers multimedia alternatives to traditional marketing materials; and the Maryland Bail Bond Association.

Elsewhere

United, USAir scrap most commissions for travel agents

United Airlines and US Airways Group Inc. scrapped yesterday most commissions paid to travel agents in the United States and Canada, joining rivals in the cost-cutting move as more people use the Internet to book flights.

Amtran Inc.'s American Trans Air also matched the change, but Vanguard Airlines Inc. said it would keep paying a 5 percent commission. Last week, Delta Air Lines Inc. began the change and was followed this week by AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, Continental Airlines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Inc.

Dropping the commissions is expected to save U.S. airlines about $1 billion a year, analysts estimated.

New York City lost 135,700 jobs in year

New York City lost 135,700 private sector jobs from February 2001 to last month, a decline of about 4.3 percent and nearly three times the national decline of 1.5 percent in the same period, the New York state Labor Department reported yesterday.

The city's unemployment rate, adjusted for seasonal variations, rose one-tenth of a percentage point from January to February, to 7.2 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate declined to 5.5 percent from 5.6 percent.

The city's private sector job losses - heaviest in the business services, securities brokers, banking, retail and air transportation sectors - reflect the economic damage from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, said Stephen Kagann, chief economist to Gov. George E. Pataki.

Chicken grower to pay back wages, interest

A Mississippi-based poultry producer has agreed to pay more than $450,000 in back wages and interest to more than 500 chicken catchers to settle a Labor Department lawsuit that alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The department announced the agreement yesterday with Sanderson Farms Inc., of Laurel, Miss. The company has processing plants in Mississippi and Texas.

The settlement is similar to agreements in chicken-catcher cases involving Perdue Farms Inc. and Continental Grain Co.

Laid-off Boeing workers gain federal assistance

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