Clock stops as union, Con Ed talk contracts

By Nathan Duke

Con Edison and the union representing its workers expressed hope that they would be able to reach agreement on a contract Wednesday after a Tuesday night strike deadline passed.

Workers had been considering walking off the job Tuesday night if they did not arrive at a pact with the utility on issues including wages, health care costs, safety for workers and pensions, said Joe Flaherty, a representative for the Local 1-2 union, which represents Con Ed's workers.

“We sat face to face with Con Ed for five minutes this morning and now we're exchanging proposals,” Flaherty said Tuesday afternoon. “But the company has effectively subverted the process.”

Flaherty had said one of the workers' options had been to strike at midnight, but the union and the utility continued negotiating into Wednesday morning and disregarded the midnight deadline.

The utility has said it would be prepared to handle the walkout.

“We continue to remain hopeful that our discussions with the union leadership will produce a fair and equitable contract for our employees,” the statement said. “We are also committed to securing an agreement that holds down costs for our customers as much as possible. Our management team continues to be prepared to operate the system if a job action occurs.”

Gov. David Paterson intervened Saturday, asking both parties to halt negotiations while they cooled off after little progress was made in weekend talks. Paterson said he wanted to prevent a strike as the summer temperatures soared.

Western Queens elected officials, who have long been at odds with the utility following the 10-day blackout in July 2006, which left 174,000 residents without power and caused businesses to lose millions in revenue, criticized Con Ed's performance during the negotiations.

“It is an absolute disgrace for Con Edison to grant its CEO [Kevin Burke] a 24 percent raise while offering less than 1 percent to the people who actually do the work,” state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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