Emergencies and power problems will be the top priority for Con Edison while the utility company keeps its union workers locked out.
Con Ed has 348,000 customer accounts in Westchester, according to Con Ed spokesman Alan Drury. Most areas of Harrison use the power company.
Negotiations between Con Ed and the union turned confrontational over the weekend. Talks broke down around midnight Saturday, as the contract expired.
Reports say the union was willing to keep working without a contract but not willing to extend the contract for two weeks or to promise 7-day notice before a strike. At 1 a.m. Sunday the company instituted a lock-out of 8,500 union members and called in managers and management retirees.
On its website, Con Ed offers a summary and a video about what customers need to know during the work stoppage. The priority: emergencies and power problems. Bills may reflect estimated use; pay online or by mail. Customer phone lines will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
According to an article this morning in The Gothamist:
"...the union warns that if there's any serious problems, the managers won't be able to handle it.
"They have placed their customers and the public at great peril," union spokesman John Melia tells the Daily News. "These men and women don’t have the knowledge or the expertise or the capability to keep the system operating long term. These guys don’t know how to go down into flaming manholes." Not to be outdone, union president Harry Farrell told the Times, "What they said last night to the people of New York was, ‘Drop dead.' They’re asking retired supervisors to climb poles and work in manholes and stuff — I just don’t see it happening." For now, Con Ed is suspending meter reading and shutting walk-in centers.
Con Ed workers haven't gone on strike since the summer of 1983; at that time there were 16,500 members working at the utility, and the Times reports that the strike lasted nine weeks, with one major incident affecting service. The two sides are currently at odds over pension benefits. Workers' current contract has expired, and while workers were willing to continue working without a contract during negotiations, Con Ed officials had demanded an agreement from the union not to strike without seven days' notice.
The union rejected that, and negotiations broke down around 1:30 a.m. Sunday. Throughout yesterday there were a number of small-scale power outages, but Con Ed's spokesman says there were below average for a typical day in July."
According to the Con Ed website, the utility company had been preparing for a work stoppage for months.
"The company said it appreciated the hard work of its union employees, but that it must work to achieve a contract that is fair and equitable for both employees and customers. Con Edison said its negotiators have presented numerous proposals to the union leadership to address long-term wage and benefit issues, in an effort to meet the needs of employees while respecting the cost concerns of customers," the company press release stated.
Pensions appear to be at the forefront of the dispute.
With continuing hot weather, Con Ed asks customers to conserve energy and offers these tips.