July 10, 2012 / 8:57 PM / 6 years ago

NYC power workers resume contract talks with ConEd

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York power company Consolidated Edison Inc made a new contract offer on Tuesday in an attempt to end the 10-day lock out of its 8,000 member union workforce.

But the union was not happy that the company posted its latest offer in a news release.

“Once again Con Edison has committed another outrageous action,” Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) spokesman John Melia told Reuters. “We reject the press release outright and are not going to negotiate this contract in the public space.”

In its release, the company said it offered to increase wages by more than 10 percent over four years and keep health benefits the same for another year, among other things.

The company also offered to maintain the current defined benefit pension formulas for all employees hired before July 1, 2012 and apply cash balance defined benefit pension formula for employees hired after July 1, 2012.

Melia said the company was trying to split the union members into groups.

A major sticking point in the negotiations has been Con Edison’s move to phase out defined pensions for union workers, as well as disagreement over wages and healthcare costs.

The company and the union resumed negotiations on Tuesday at about noon and were still talking at about 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Melia said.

Melia said the company did put an offer on the table. He said the union was preparing a response, but would not characterize the offer.

NON-UNION LABOR

This morning, the workers accused Con Edison of bringing in non-union labor from other states to back up management teams working to keep the lights on in America’s largest city.

The charge came as both sides were set to resume contract negotiations on Tuesday after a two-day break in a bitter labor dispute that has raised the specter of blackouts during the summer heat.

“Con Edison has taken the extreme provocative measure of bringing in utility crews from other states, Virginia and Alabama,” Melia said.

“This gives the lie to their claim that they can do it themselves. It’s criminal provocation to bring in scabs and it endangers the public.”

Alfonso Quiroz, a spokesman for Con Edison, confirmed the utility was using contractors from out of state, but he said it was normal practice in such circumstances.

“They are doing some work the managers have been trained for,” he said, referring to 5,000 managers who have been trained to respond to emergencies in place of the 8,000 unionized workers locked out when contract talks stalled.

He declined to say how many outside contractors were working for Con Edison, citing “security issues.”

The sides last met on Saturday for about three hours during which federal mediators shuttled between them in separate rooms.

Con Edison locked out the workers on July 1 after a union strike deadline expired.

Last week, there was a series of brownouts in parts of New York City, raising fears of a bigger blackout if the system was strained by increased demand during a brutal heat wave with temperatures nearing 100 degrees F (38 degrees Celsius).

But temperatures this week have returned to around the average July mark of 84 degrees.

Reporting by Steve James and Scott DiSavino; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid and Andre Grenon

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