Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 11 News List

Business Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ Retail

Child labor deal scrutinized

US Labor Department investigators will review a US$135,540 settlement the agency reached with Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, over accusations that it violated child labor laws. The investigation was sought by Representative George Miller. The California Democrat criticized the deal made public on Feb. 12 because it provides that Wal-Mart will receive 15 days notice in most cases before the Labor Department investigates employee complaints of wage and hour violations. Miller said the two-week window could give Wal-Mart the chance to sweep violations under the rug. The alleged violations, at 25 stores in Arkansas, Connecticut and New Hampshire between 1998 and 2002, had to do with teenage workers who used hazardous equipment such as a chain saw, paper balers and fork lifts. US child labor laws prohibit anyone under 18 from operating hazardous equipment.

■ Labor

Strike at Reuters approved

Union-represented workers at the US operations of Reuters Group PLC have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against the financial news and information company, the head of the union said on Friday. Barry Lipton, president of the Newspaper Guild of New York, said the strike authorization proposal passed by a margin of 302 to 4, according to results compiled on Friday morning. The guild represents about 450 of the 2,000 US-based employees of Reuters, and an overwhelming majority of the editorial employees. "Reuters has an extraordinarily onerous list of givebacks on the table, including a partial wage freeze, drastic reduction in pension benefits, and decimation of health insurance coverage while at the same time demanding higher contributions for the coverage," Lipton said.

■ Eurozone

French rush to declare coins

Teller windows at the Bank of France were mobbed by a record crowd as a deadline for declaring franc coins expired, the central bank said on Friday. Around 45,000 people showed up at the bank's various branches throughout France to turn in old coins on Thursday, setting an "absolute record" that far surpassed a previous high set when the euro became legal tender more than three years ago. Roughly 17,000 had turned up on Jan. 3 2002 as the bank opened two days after the 12-nation eurozone introduced euro banknotes and coins. According to the central bank, more than 50 million franc-denominated coins were turned in since Feb. 1, compared with 22 million last month and 118 million for all of last year. On Monday, the bank had said that 3 billion franc coins worth about 600 million euros (US$780 million dollars) were still outstanding.

■ Investment

Priest must return assets

A Catholic priest who was jailed in Singapore for embezzling church funds has been ordered to return to a parishioner cash, unit trusts and shares worth S$1.5 million (US$915,000), news reports said yesterday. High Court Judge Choo Han Teck said Father Joachim Kang and retired investment company director Emilly Chan both had plausible arguments, but he believed the parishioner over the priest. The priest was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in jail last April for misappropriating S$5.1 million in church funds. After Kang was convicted, Chan, 74, started action to get her money, unit trusts and shares returned, maintaining she had only given them to Kang for safekeeping. Kang insisted they were gifts.

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