Con Ed Reinstates Workers' Health Insurance

With another heat wave forecast for this week, a union spokesman said Sunday that there's been no apparent progress in contract negotiations

By Verena Dobnik
|  Monday, Jul 16, 2012  |  Updated 4:11 PM EDT
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Con Ed Contract Talks Continue

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Con Ed Contract Talks Continue

It's been five days since negotiations over a new contract broke down. As the company and 8,500 locked out workers head into the weekend, there's no agreement in sight. John Noel reports.
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Consolidated Edison has reinstated health insurance for 8,500 locked-out New York utility workers.

But with another heat wave forecast for this week, a union spokesman said Sunday that there's been no apparent progress in contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, Con Ed has reduced voltage by 5 percent in some Manhattan neighborhoods on the East Side and on Roosevelt Island, the utility said.

John Melia of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 told The Associated Press that Con Ed is struggling to keep power flowing to Brooklyn's Bensonhurst neighborhood.

The utility hired contractors who are trying to replace a critical transformer at the Bensonhurst electric substation, Melia said. But the equipment must be loaded on a crane whose operators are respecting the workers' Brooklyn picket lines, he said.

A Con Ed spokesman could not immediately confirm the report.

On Sunday, negotiators took the day off. Talks between the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 and Con Ed were to resume Monday as forecasts predict high temperatures in the 90s for New York City early this week.

Going into the third week of negotiations, there have been no major outages despite one heat wave.

The Con Ed workers were locked out on June 30 after their contract expired and negotiations over a new one failed. About 5,000 managers, former employees and contractors are keeping electricity going for 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester County

Neither Con Ed nor the union has indicated any real progress. Major issues include pensions, wages and health-care costs.

Melia said the company "bowed to public pressure" in reinstating the health insurance.

Workers are covered for July, retroactively, while collecting unemployment insurance.

Last week, the union asked state regulators to order Con Ed to end the lockout, charging that the utility giant is violating its obligations. A union petition asks the New York State Public Service Commission to consider whether Con Ed is providing "quality, reliability and safety" of service during the lockout.

The commission said it has asked Con Ed to respond by Tuesday.

"We believe this is the largest lockout of working men and women in U.S. history," union president Harry Farrell said in a statement Monday. "All we ask is a fair contract, nothing more."

Forecasts call for temperatures in the 90s in the coming days.

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