Monday PM May 21st, 2007

Congressmen want employees and contract workers in industrial mishaps to be equally counted...Gasoline prices hit another record high...General Electric to sell plastics unit to Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, which has Houston office...

Two U.S. Congressmen from Texas are introducing legislation that will add employees of contract firms to oversights that are now in place for large refineries and other industrial plants. CongressmanξGene Green says the idea is to force companies to take responsibility for industrial accidents on their premises, whether their own employees or contract workers.

Congressmen Gene Green and Al Green"And so that's my goal, is to make sure that we change the attitude in Washington--and also the law--to make sure that when OHSA goes out and inspects, that those people who are injured on that plant site, whether they're employees of that company or they're contract workers, are counted on that job site for that company. When I found out that those 15 deaths at British Petroleum at Texas City did not even, wouldn't even show up on British Petroleum because they were contract workers, that's just wrong."

Congressman Al Green says the legislation would strengthen Occupational Health and Safety Administration law, which currently does not explicitly cover employees of contract firms.

"You can not factor into your bottom line the deaths of employees. The perception exists that this is being done. And we want them to understand that you can't do these things with impunity. When you don't keep proper records and you don't make sure that you adhere to proper safety standards, that you can not only be punished by fine, but you can also be prosecuted criminally. When we're talking about billions and billions of dollars in profits, money alone is not the proper sanction."

The legislation would require employers to report OSHA contract worker injuries the same way the deaths of full-time employees are reported. Employers would be held criminally liable for willful safety violations resulting in the death of a contract employee working on their sites.

More sticker shock at the pump--gasoline has hit another record high. The nationwide Lundberg Survey finds the average price of self-serve regular gasoline his now $3.18 a gallon. That's up more than 11 cents from the last survey two weeks ago. The latest price beats the previous inflation-adjusted record of $3.15 per gallon in March 1981. Nationwide, the lowest average price for regular fuel is $2.87 in Charleston, South Carolina, and the highest was in Chicago at $3.59. Oil prices continue to rise on concerns that U.S. refiners aren't producing enough gasoline to meet peak summer demand. The summer driving season begins this weekend with the Memorial Day holiday.

As expected, General Electric has announced an agreement to sell its plastics unit to Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, which has an office here in Houston. GE says it would net about $9 billion from the divestiture. Word of the sale comes in statements from both companies. The sale to the Riyadh-based firm, pending regulatory approvals, is seen closing by the third quarter of this year. GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt says in a statement that proceeds from the sale will be used to fund stock buybacks and ''strengthen the company through restructuring.'' The Pittsfield, Massachusetts-based GE plastics unit has more than 10,000 employees in 60 locations around the world.

An extremely thin week for economic reports as we head into the long Memorial Day weekend. Things don't really get going until Wednesday, when the Energy Department issues its weekly oil inventories report. Thursday brings weekly jobless claims numbers and durable goods orders and new home sales for April. Things wrap up Friday, when the National Association of Realtors reports on sales of previously-owned homes last month.

Tags: News


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