Boeing on Tuesday outlined an offer of a new incentive pay plan for Machinists union members ahead of intensive contract talks due to start Thursday at a SeaTac hotel.

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Labor relations

Boeing offers new incentive pay plan

Boeing on Tuesday outlined an offer of a new incentive pay plan for Machinists union members ahead of intensive contract talks due to start Thursday at a SeaTac hotel.

The plan is aimed at matching a current incentive plan that applies only to salaried workers, including engineering union staff.

The proposed new Machinists plan will give an extra 10 days’ pay annually for meeting several targets and up to 20 days’ extra pay for exceeding those targets.

The salaried staff plan targets are based solely on the company’s profit performance. The proposal to Machinists provides incentives based on company profits, measures of work quality and safety in the workplace.

An extra 20 days of base pay could total almost $4,000 for an average Boeing Machinist.

If accepted by the union, the first potential payout would be in early 2010 based on 2009 performance. The union could not be reached for an immediate reaction.


Bellevue-based firm to be sold

Massachusetts-based speech-and-imaging software firm Nuance said Tuesday that it agreed to buy wireless software company SNAPin for $180 million in stock. SNAPin shareholders also will get milestone payments.

Bellevue-based SNAPin makes software that helps mobile subscribers solve problems with their handsets by themselves, without the help of a customer-care representative. Nuance estimates that mobile-phone companies spent about $100 billion a year providing customer care, and its new acquisition can help address that need.

Nuance, which has an office in the Seattle region already, does not intend to move SNAPin from its current headquarters at this time, said Nuance spokesman Richard Mack. The company’s employees will become part of Nuance’s Mobile and Consumer Services division.

Nuance said the acquisition will close in October.


Starbucks, Pepsi to expand tea sales

PepsiCo and Starbucks, already partners in a deal to sell bottled Frappucinos, are turning their attention to bottled tea.

The two companies plan to give Starbucks’ Tazo brand greater exposure and expand distribution, as sales of ready-to-drink teas grow. Tazo bottled iced tea and juice teas are now sold in Starbucks and other outlets. Starting in mid-October, the bottled teas will be made available nationwide through the PepsiCo bottling system.


Microsoft, Novell partnership grows

Microsoft and Novell are expanding the partnership they signed almost two years ago to help their products work together and market them jointly.

The companies said late Tuesday that Microsoft would resell up to an additional $100 million in expanded support from Novell for customers that run both Windows and open-source software, and switch to Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

The original deal, announced in November 2006, included $240 million in support sales from Microsoft. About 65 percent of that had been booked through April.

The companies also pledged to jointly work on technology to help proprietary and open-source software perform better together. Many companies run a mix of both.

The partnership extends to Jan. 1, 2012.


Taiwan probes Microsoft over Vista

Taiwan’s Fair Trade Commission is probing Microsoft after an activist group filed a complaint saying consumers are being forced to buy its Windows Vista operating system.

“We have received the complaint and are now conducting our own investigation, which may last around six months,” Chou Ya-shu, the antitrust regulator’s spokeswoman, said Monday. Microsoft could face fines of as much as NT$25 million ($796,000) and be ordered to halt illicit practices if found guilty of fair-trade breaches, she said.

Sophia Chang, a spokeswoman for Microsoft in Taipei, denied the company forces people to buy Vista and declined to comment further.

Microsoft should be fined for using its monopoly to force consumers to adopt Vista after the company ended sales of Windows XP in June, Taiwan’s Consumer Foundation, a nonprofit group, said in its complaint posted on its Web site Aug. 15.

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Travelers to Europe may fly hungrier

United Airlines, struggling to curb losses from record fuel prices, will become the first U.S. carrier to stop serving free meals in the coach cabin of some overseas flights.

Instead, the second-largest U.S. carrier will offer food that can be purchased aboard trips to Europe from Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C., starting Oct. 1, spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said Tuesday.

“International flights have historically been sacrosanct from these kinds of charges,” David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association passenger-advocacy group, said. “This is the new era of a fee for every service. We should get used to it.”

Consumer electronics

Batteries blamed for iPod meltdown

Apple said Tuesday that batteries from a single supplier are to blame for the meltdown of some models of its tiny iPod Nano digital music player.

The company’s statement came in response to a Japanese government report that two iPod Nanos overheated in Tokyo, scorching nearby paper and a woven straw mat.

Apple said the flaw affected first-generation Nanos, sold between September 2005 and December 2006, in very rare instances. It added, “There have been no reports of serious injuries or property damage, and no reports of incidents for any other iPod Nano model.”


Honda readies revamped Fit

Honda Motor will bring out a revamped Fit small car next month even as tight global supplies may limit U.S. growth for the model.

The 2009 Fit goes on sale early next month with a starting price of $14,550, Honda said. The Tokyo-based company plans to sell about 85,000 in the revised hatchback’s first 12 months, unchanged from the current level.

“We could sell more if supply was there,” said Dan Bonawitz, Honda’s U.S. vice president for corporate planning


Canadian dollar up as U.S. dollar slips

Canada’s dollar climbed after the U.S. dollar weakened against most major currencies and prices for commodities such as crude oil and gold rebounded.

The Canadian currency rose 0.4 percent to $1.0607 Canadian per U.S. dollar Tuesday afternoon in Toronto, from $1.0646 Canadian on Monday. One Canadian dollar buys 94.28 U.S. cents. The currency has dropped 5.9 percent this year.

Consumer electronics

Software update to aid iPhone link

Apple released a software update to improve network connections for the new iPhone 3G after program glitches may have hurt call quality.

The update will help the devices get better reception on third-generation networks, spokeswoman Jennifer Bowcock said Tuesday in a phone interview.

She declined to elaborate.

T-Mobile Netherlands, which sells the iPhone, said last week it was investigating reports of problems.

Compiled by Seattle Times business staff, The Associated Press and Bloomberg News