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Three weeks after contract negotiations began between Con Ed and representatives from the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2, the utility giant reinstated health coverage for its 8,500 locked out workers.

Local 1-2 spokesperson John Melia claimed the company’s decision to cut off health insurance at the start of the lockout was illegal.

“They broke the law, we caught them at it and they put insurance back in place,” said Melia. “They knew they broke the law. They knew they were in the wrong.”

According to Melia, Con Ed cost state unemployment assistance agencies millions of dollars after refusing to pay for workers’ benefits, forcing them to look elsewhere for help. Melia added that since the company is self-insured, revoking benefits was a “double crime against the 8,500 New York families” affected during the lockout.

“They don’t care about their customers and they don’t care about their workers,” said Melia. “How are they getting away with charging the people of New York to throw workers on the street?”

According to a Con Ed spokesperson, employees who worked after midnight on June 30 — the day the contract ran out –- continued to receive health care through the month of July. Those who did not work past the first of the month were released from their company-offered insurance and instead presented with the option of purchasing benefits through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) — a Department of Labor-sponsored program that provides dismissed or laid-off workers and their families benefits. The representative said only a very small number of workers retained coverage in the interim.

On July 15, Con Ed officials notified union leadership after deciding to reinstate coverage for all locked out workers through July. Medical costs incurred during the course of the lockout will also be covered. The official did not say why Con Ed executives came to this conclusion.

Neither side could say whether or not talks had progressed any further.

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