NY utility, union to meet Thursday; talks possible
NEW YORK (AP) — New York utility Consolidated Edison and the union representing its employees are scheduled to meet Thursday, potentially restarting stalled talks that have left workers off their jobs while managers are keeping the electrical power going.
Con Ed and Utility Workers Local 1-2 spokesman John Melia say the parties are meeting. Melia said Monday the meeting is to see if negotiations can resume.
Talks broke down Sunday after the workers' contract expired at midnight.
With heat pressing down on New Yorkers, pressure has been mounting for the situation to be resolved. Both sides say there are many issues on which they have not reached agreement, including changing pension terms.
"Con Ed must end its lockout and allow the workers to return to their jobs while the new contract is negotiated," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement Monday.
"When the power goes out and air conditioning and lights go off, it is often the most vulnerable such as the elderly and chronically ill that suffer with often serious consequences," the speaker said.
On Monday, union workers' tempers rose along with the heat on city streets.
"Kevin Burke, come out with your hands up, we want our pensions!" mechanic John Lucchini yelled into a bullhorn, naming Con Ed's CEO amid a protest in front of company headquarters.
Con Ed offered workers a two-week extension, on condition they promise not to suddenly strike during that time. The union refused, and the utility declared a lockout, saying 8,500 workers would be replaced by 5,000 managers to keep services running.
The New York State AFL-CIO issued a statement calling Con Ed's actions "nothing short of reprehensible."
"They displayed unbridled contempt, not only for their workers, but for their loyal customers," the statement said, and "instead of continuing to bargain in good faith with Utility Workers Local 1-2, Con Edison chose to fire their union workers, thus endangering the safety and well-being of millions of New Yorkers."
"We've been trying to get them back to the table since yesterday," company spokesman Mike Clendenin said Monday on "Good Morning New York."
The unionized workers told the company they'd be willing to work without a contract to keep the power company running, said Melia, who disputed the company's claim that its managers could do the job of the union workers.
A manager doing routine Con Ed work suffered minor burns, Con Ed confirmed.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer issued a statement, saying Con Ed employees "deserve respect and a fair contract, and residents of the New York City region deserve assurances their power will continue without interruption as the heat wave continues."
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