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Southwest Airlines is lashing out at the union representing its mechanics, suggesting that they may be grounding planes to gain leverage in stalled contract negotiations.

Southwest is fighting the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, which represents nearly 2,400 Southwest mechanics.

Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said Southwest saw an increase in aircraft being declared out of service on Feb. 12, "just days after our last negotiations session with AMFA." The surge, concentrated at a few bases, occurred even though there were no changes in the maintenance programs, he said.

The airline issued an emergency order last Friday that requires mechanics to get a doctor's note if they call in sick and gives Southwest the power to impose mandatory overtime. Mechanics who don't comply could be fired.

The memo went initially to mechanics in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Houston and Orlando, Florida, and this week to those in Dallas. Still, delays and cancellations have persisted.

Van de Ven said "AMFA has a history of work disruptions" — Southwest has two pending lawsuits against the union — and the airline will investigate the latest incident. He said Southwest was giving as much work as possible to third-party maintenance providers so Southwest mechanics can focus on issues that they have identified.

 

Krone relocates U.S. headquarers

OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. — A German agricultural implement company is moving its North American headquarters from Memphis into nearby Mississippi.

Krone announced Wednesday that it's investing $1.5 million to move a 45-employee headquarters and distribution facility to Olive Branch. The company says the new, rented location lets it consolidate two warehouses and offers better highway access.

State and local governments plan to give Krone incentives worth more than $8 million.

Mississippi Development Authority spokeswoman Tammy Craft says Krone will get property and inventory tax abatements projected at $7.3 million over 10 years. Krone will also get a $250,000 grant to relocate equipment. Craft says Krone qualifies for incentives rebating some worker income taxes to the company. That requires Krone pay workers at least $37,521 annually. The company could get $675,000 over 10 years.

 

Google's Nest has microphone

Google said Wednesday it forgot to mention that it included a microphone in its Nest Secure home alarm system, the latest privacy flub by one of the tech industry's leading collectors of personal information.

The company said earlier this month that its voice assistant feature would be available on the system's Nest Guard, which controls home alarm sensors.

But Google hadn't told consumers about the device's built-in microphone when it began selling the hubs in the fall of 2017. As recently as January , the product specs for the device made no mention of a microphone.

Google said in a statement that the omission was a mistake. "The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs," it said.

The microphone hasn't been active since launch, and people have to specifically enable it going forward, Google said. Business Insider first reported the microphone had been missing from the product's description.

Google and other Internet companies are facing increasing scrutiny over their data collection practices. The forgotten microphone is not Google's first run-in with user privacy concerns.

 

Fed members see economic threats

Federal Reserve policymakers last month noted greater threats to the U.S. economy, ranging from adverse effects of the government shutdown to rising trade tensions, and decided to emphasize that they would be "patient" in raising interest rates.

Minutes of the Fed's January discussions, released Wednesday, showed that Fed officials also felt that further rate hikes might only be needed if inflation were to accelerate.

Fed officials also appeared close to agreeing on a plan to stop reducing their enormous bond portfolio before year's end — a step intended to help ease upward pressure on borrowing rates.

The minutes showed that Fed officials believe a "patient approach" to rate hikes would give them more time to assess the economic impact of President Donald Trump's trade battles with China and other countries, as well as the severity of a developing slowdown in global growth.

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