Con Edison Lockout Puts Labor Union In the Dark

Managers Running City’s Power Grid

Con Edison and the union representing about 8,000 of its employees remain at an impasse as of press time Wednesday afternoon, July 4, after the plug was pulled on contract negotiations early Sunday morning, July 1, and the utility company locked out the union workers.

Members of Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 (UWUA) had threatened last week to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. on July 1 if a new collective bargaining agreement could not be reached with Con Edison. But before they could hit the picket line, with both sides far apart on a contract, Con Edison instead instituted the lockout an hour after the deadline passed.

The electric, gas and steam utilities controlled by Con Edison for its 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester County are now being operated by 5,000 management personnel. Before locking out the union workers, Con Edison indicated in a statement that it had offered to extend their members’ contracts for two weeks to allow talks to continue- but the union leaders rejected the offer.

“The company’s offer to extend the current contract remains on the table,” according to a press release from Con Edison, adding that if the leadership agrees to the extension, “the company would welcome its employees back immediately.”

Harry J. Farrell, president of UWUA Local 1-2, blasted the Con Edison lockout as an “extreme measure.” In statements on their website, the union claimed that Con Edison is looking to take away its workers’ pension fund.

“Con Edison stockholders and management have experienced unbounded prosperity, paying huge bonuses to their CEO and upper management,” according to a statement from the union issued last Saturday, June 30. “Notwithstanding the company’s growing profits, rising stock prices and excessive management payout, their current contract demands amount to stripping our members of the dignity of their labor following a lifetime of service.”

Published reports indicated that the two sides were scheduled to return to the bargaining table Thursday, July 5 (today).

With management now tasked with continuing the operation of Con Edison’s utility systems-and making repairs where necessary-the company has temporarily suspended meter reading “for most customers” and closed all customer walk-in centers. Some non-emergency construction projects have also been halted.

At locations where meter reading is suspended, customers will be billed on estimated usage based on account records. Bills can be paid by mail, by phone at 1-800-75-CONED, online at www.coned.com or through authorized payment agents.

Con Edison noted that customers should still report outages or other service problems by phone at 1-800- 75-CONED or on their website.