Business & Finance

General Motors has increased vehicle production and has been receiving larger-than-usual shipments of parts from bankrupt supplier Delphi Corp., published reports said, prompting speculation that the automaker is trying to insulate itself against the latter's labor troubles. Delphi has angered the unions representing its hourly employees by seeking deep wage and benefit concessions and has said it may close some of its 44 plants if their differences aren't resolved soon. Meanwhile, GM has gone to an overtime schedule at some plants in North America, raising production 8 percent last month despite a 23 percent drop-off in sales from the previous year. A company spokesman said greater output was needed to replace depleted inventories of popular models after summer sales. But he also pointed to a need to look at "potential contingencies" and to ensure that the supply of parts is protected.

A one-day strike of unionized employees was scheduled for Wednesday at Volkswagen's SEAT subsidiary in Spain to protest the announcement of 1,346 job cuts. SEAT said the move, which requires the OK of Spain's Labor Ministry, is planned because it needs to lower costs and because negotiations with unionized employees on reducing hourly wages by 10 percent went nowhere.

The maker of Marlboro cigarettes defended its decision to market a plastic sleeve that will hide mandatory health warnings on packs of its product, at least in Hong Kong. The strategy, which has angered antismoking advocates, involves a reusable, glossy red and black cover imprinted with the image of a male model strumming a guitar. It has been denounced by the World Health Organization as "cynical" and "absolutely against the spirit of the law." The warnings, expected to appear on cigarette packs next year, may well include photographs of diseased organs as an intended deterrent to smoking. Such warnings already appear on cigarette packs in Canada, Brazil, Singapore, and Thailand. A spokeswoman for Philip Morris of Hong Kong said the sleeves "offer our consumers more choice" and are not intended to be reused.

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