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Dec. 1, 2012 at 12:30 PM
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Port strike costs rising in S. California

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Seaport authorities in Southern California said eleven cargo ships snubbed by striking clerical workers set sail for competing ports Thursday and Friday.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California said the ships are headed to Oakland, Calif., Mexico and the Panama Canal to have cargoes unloaded. The clerical workers' strike is estimated to cost $1 billion per day, including lost wages for truck drivers and longshoremen and lost profits for retailers, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The union group on strike includes 800 clerical workers who handle the paperwork at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif.

Despite the losses, the strikers have support from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63, which has 10,000 members who are not crossing picket lines.

In addition to the ships that gave up on the two local ports, several ships are stuck in those port waiting for a resolution to the strike.

With losses mounting, pressure is building to have the strike resolved. "A quick resolution is critical to maintaining our status as the country's premier gateway for trans-Pacific trade," said Port of Long Beach Executive Director J. Christopher Lytle.

One ship can carry the equivalent of roughly five warehouses worth of goods. That means the 11 ships that sailed for other ports Thursday and Friday have taken with them the business interests of 55 warehouses, the truck drivers it would take to fill those warehouses plus sales at area gas stations, among other incidental factors.

"Any time an action reduces the reliability of the ports to be able to move goods into and out of the United States, they reduce the competitiveness of the region and help make the argument that Southern California's competitors make to move trade and jobs to them," said economist John Husing, founder of the consulting firm Economics & Politics Inc.

Seaport managers said they offered the clerical workers an annual compensation package worth $195,000, up from the current wage and benefit package worth $165,000. But the offer was turned down Monday, leading to the strike.

Cabin crew group welcomes OSHA on board

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The president of the Association of Flight Attendants said U.S. flight crews and passengers would benefit from a proposed regulatory switch.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have proposed sharing responsibility for work safety issues for cabin crews in flight.

The proposal is open for 30 days for public comment, CNN reported Saturday.

Previously, OSHA kept its feet on the ground, as their jurisdiction covered planes on runways, but not planes in the air.

The proposed switch, "is a validation that the aircraft cabin is our workplace. Any enhancement for flight attendants would also be an enhancement for passengers," who share the same environment, said Veda Shook, president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

CNN said sharing the regulatory responsibility would give OSHA the chance to investigate issues involving airborne pathogens within a plane's cabin. It could also create a consistent training policy regarding bleeding passengers, which is now left up to each airline.

An airline industry group, however, had a negative reaction to the proposal.

"Airlines for America believes that expanding the regulatory process across multiple agencies is unnecessary, creates conflicting regulatory authority and a host of logistical problems throughout the industry," said Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for the industry group.

Apple selling iPhone 5 unlocked

CUPERTINO, Calif., Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Apple says the iPhone 5 smartphone can now be purchased without a carrier service contract, offering flexibility for users traveling outside the United States.

"If you don't want a multiyear service contract, or if you prefer to use a local carrier when traveling abroad, the unlocked (no contract) iPhone is the best choice," Apple said in an online post.

Apple said an unlocked phone "does not come with a micro-SIM card for iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, or a nano-SIM card for iPhone 5, so you'll need to get one from any supported GSM carrier worldwide."

Once a consumer buys a card, activating the phone is a matter of inserting the card into the iPhone, holding the On/Off button for a few seconds and following instructions, the company said.

Buying an iPhone 5 without a contract hints at how much carrier services are subsidizing the price of the device when a contract is included.

The iPhone 5 starts at $199 with a contract. An unlocked iPhone 5 starts at $649.

In France, a deal to save steelworker jobs

PARIS, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The French government said steel maker ArcelorMittal would invest in a plant it had planned to partially shut down, ending the need to nationalize the company.

"The government dismissed this idea on the grounds of commitments it obtained from ArcelorMittal," said French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in a press conference.

Due to weak demand for steel, the company was expected to close two blast furnace, which have already been shut down temporarily.

The government reacted by exploring the possibility of nationalizing the company, which is based in Luxembourg, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Instead of closing down the furnaces permanently, however, the steel maker committed itself to exploring their use as underground carbon-dioxide storage facilities, the Journal reported.

The commitment to the plant includes an investment of $233.6 million over five years, The New York Times reported.

In addition, the company said it would not layoff any of its 2,7000 workers. Closing the blast furnaces had threatened to end about 600 of those jobs, the Times said.

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