Firm recalculates part-time workweek

Food-service giant Sodexo has unexpectedly reversed course after bumping thousands of college cafeteria workers from its health-care plan earlier this year and casting blame on the federal health-care law.

Julie Peterson, Sodexo’s vice president for benefits, said Thursday that the company will make changes for next year to restore eligibility for many of those affected. Although Sodexo said the reversal was part of a standard review of major policy decisions, the company also faced a union organizing drive and campus protests.

French-owned Sodexo is a multinational service company with U.S. headquarters in Maryland. It operates many college cafeterias and also provides other campus services. In January, Sodexo reclassified some of its workers as part-time by averaging their hours over a 52-week calendar year. That affected about 5,000 of its 133,000 U.S. employees.

Sodexo said it was acting to align itself with the health-care law, which requires that employers with 50 or more workers offer coverage to those averaging at least 30 hours a week or face fines.

Peterson said that for benefits purposes, the company will now credit campus employees during the summer break with the hours they would have worked during the academic year.

“We’ve realized we can change the way we are determining eligibility and still remain competitive in the market,” Peterson said.

Unite Here, a labor union trying to organize Sodexo workers, said federal rules require colleges and universities to essentially do the same thing for their faculty employees. But those rules don’t apply to contractor employees in cafeterias.

“There is nothing in there that says contract workers are protected,” said union spokesman Ethan Snow.

— Associated Press

GM recalls another half-million vehicles

General Motors, which has recalled about 20 million cars and trucks in North America this year, added 428,111 U.S. vehicles to that tally, including its redesigned full-size pickups and large sport-utility vehicles.

GM said it needs to recalibrate software that controls the gears to fix the four-wheel drive on 392,459 pickups and SUVs, including the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups from the 2014 and 2015 model years and the 2015 Chevy Tahoe and Suburban. The affected models can switch into neutral on their own, the automaker said Friday.

GM, which said it isn’t aware of any crashes or injuries, has been recalling vehicles more frequently as it faces multiple investigations for its slowness in calling back 2.59 million small cars with ignition problems linked to at least 13 deaths. Since that action began in February, the company has recalled other cars for similar ignition issues, accounting for about 9 million of the fixes.

GM also said it is recalling 29,019 Chevrolet Cruzes from model years 2013 and 2014 to replace the driver’s-side air-bag inflator. Two other recalls were announced Friday. They include 1,939 Chevrolet Corvettes from model year 2014 to replace rear shock absorbers and 4,794 Chevrolet Caprice police cars from model years 2013 and 2014, as well as the 2014 Chevy SS, to replace the windshield wiper modules if necessary.

GM also recalled Buick Excelle sedans in China after regulators found that the high beam can’t be turned off under extreme circumstances. Shanghai GM, the automaker’s manufacturing joint venture in China, will call back 194,107 Buick Excelle GT cars made from Oct. 10, 2009, to July 2, 2012, according to a statement posted on the Web site of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, or AQSIQ.

— Bloomberg News

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