Con Ed Seeks to Resume Talks as Managers Run Operations

Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED) is seeking to resume contract negotiations with its largest union as soon as possible after 5,000 managers began handling daily operations amid a heat wave.

The Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 said 8,000 workers were locked out early yesterday after contract talks failed. Negotiations with the New York-based utility may resume July 5 when federal mediators are due to arrive, according to John Melia, a union spokesman.

Negotiations are stalled as temperatures in New York reached 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius), Allan Drury, a Con Ed spokesman, said in a phone interview today. The sides are sparring over compensation and benefits, and can’t agree on when mediators became involved. Drury said mediators joined the negotiations April 12.

“The goal is to get the union leadership back to the negotiating table,” he said.

The company called in managers to maintain electric, gas and steam service its 3.2 million customers after the two sides failed to reach an agreement before the union’s contract expired July 30, according to a statement on Con Ed’s website.

“Our mediators have been at the table and continue to be in contact with the parties, Kimberly Warren, a spokeswoman for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said in a telephone interview today.

The union rejected an offer to extend the current contract until July 14 while talks continue, Drury said. When union leaders refused to give assurances that they wouldn’t call a strike without notice, the company assigned managers to carry out tasks normally handled by union members.

‘Wrong Fight’

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, criticized Con Ed’s actions as ‘‘reprehensible” and pledged the union’s resources to support the locked-out utility workers.

“We have one very clear and simple message for Con Edison: You picked the wrong fight,” Cilento said in an e-mail today.

“We offered to work without a contract, we requested dates to resume negotiations from Con Ed, and Con Ed informed the union negotiators shortly before 1:30 this morning that they had decided to lock us out,” Melia said in a phone interview yesterday.

To contact the reporters on this story: Julie Johnsson in Chicago at jjohnsson@bloomberg.net; Cordell Eddings in New York at ceddings@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tina Davis at tinadavis@bloomberg.net

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