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Airline, union talk, but deal unlikely

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

Minneapolis Northwest Airlines and its mechanics gathered for talks on Thursday, but prospects for a deal were uncertain since the airline said earlier it would demand steeper cuts than those prompting the strike.

“I hope they go into bankruptcy — I’ve got nothing to lose,” said Dave Kowalkowski, a mechanic who has worked for the airline for 26 years. “I’d rather deal with a bankruptcy judge.”

Union contract coordinator Jeff Mathews told reporters gathered at the downtown Minneapolis hotel where talks were held that the two sides met for about a half hour on Thursday.

Mathews said the union wanted the airline to put details of the discussions in writing. He did not disclose their content. He said the union will evaluate the talks after viewing the details in writing.

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch declined to discuss the talks, saying: “We continue to meet with both AMFA and the National Mediation Board.”

The strike reached it 20th day on Thursday, and several of the off-the-job mechanics have already started looking for their next job.

Billionaire shakes up Sears management

Chicago Hedge-fund wizard Edward Lampert is taking on a startling new role at Sears Holdings Corp.: chief marketer and merchandiser.

The billionaire chairman shook up top management at the No. 3 U.S. retailer Thursday after another poor quarter, naming Aylwin Lewis to replace Alan Lacy as CEO and taking on a more direct role at the struggling company.

The moves come with sales still sinking at the company’s two laggard chains, nearly six months after Kmart Holding Corp.’s acquisition of Sears, Roebuck & Co. Reporting results from the first full quarter after the merger, Sears Holdings said it had a lower-than-expected profit of $161 million.

BPA to reduce wholesale power rates by 1.6%

Portland The Bonneville Power Administration said Thursday it will reduce wholesale power rates by 1.6 percent beginning with the new federal fiscal year on Oct. 1.

Improved revenue from surplus power sales and cost cutting allowed the rate decrease, officials said.

The Portland-based federal power marketing agency expects to exceed its revenue forecasts for surplus power sales by about $20 million, despite water volume in the Columbia River Basin that reached only about 75 percent of normal, reducing electricity generated at federal dams.

But unusually heavy spring rains came just in time to take advantage of high market prices for surplus power caused by high natural gas prices and hot weather, Wright said. Natural gas is used to fuel turbine generators and hot weather increases demand for air conditioning.

GM to end employee-discount promotion

Detroit General Motors Corp. said Thursday it will end its employee-discount incentive on Sept. 30.

GM was the first automaker to let all customers pay the employee price in June, primarily on 2005 models as a way to clear out inventory. Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group followed in July. GM originally planned to end the incentive Aug. 1, but it was extended to match Ford and Chrysler.

Ford and Chrysler have extended their discounts to Oct. 3.

“We’re starting to focus on transitioning to our ‘06 models,” GM spokeswoman Deborah Silverman said. She said the company told dealers Wednesday the promotion was ending.

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