Con Ed, Union Reach Agreement as Storm Approaches NYC

Consolidated Edison Inc. and its biggest union reached a contract agreement that ended a 26-day lockout at New York’s largest utility as severe weather threatened the state.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the deal, reached after five hours of talks at his office today, between leaders of Con Ed and Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2. The four-year contract must still be ratified by the union’s 8,500 Con Ed members, Mike Langford, president of the national union, told reporters at a press conference today.

Cuomo brought the parties to his New York City office as severe thunderstorms accompanied by heavy rain, hail and possible tornadoes are forecast to reach the state. A similar storm in the mid-Atlantic last month caused 4.3 million customers to loser power.

“The storm brought us together this morning,” said Cuomo, who activated the state’s emergency operations center in preparation for the weather today. “You don’t want a storm hitting New York City without Con Edison at full force. That changed the tone.”

Con Ed rose 1.5 percent to $64.42 at the close, the biggest increase since Feb. 24 and its highest price since the shares started trading in 1980.

The National Weather Service predicts a possible derecho will sweep from New York City through the southern areas of the state. A derecho has wind gusts of at least 58 miles (93 kilometers) per hour and leaves a swath of damage for a minimum of 240 miles, according to the storm center’s website.

Worker Lockout

A similar storm that struck last month left 4.3 million people without power from New Jersey to North Carolina as it unleashed winds of as much as 91 miles per hour, as powerful as a Category 1 hurricane. Twenty-four deaths were linked to the storm and its aftermath, according to the Associated Press.

Con Ed locked out workers on July 1 after their contract expired and used management employees to keep its system operating. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Burke participated directly in talks for the first time today.

The two sides had been unable to agree on wages, health-care and retirement benefits. The union and the company declined to provide terms of today’s agreement. Langford said he hoped for “fast ratification.”

Union workers had picketed Con Ed’s New York City headquarters and protested outside of Burke’s Upper East Side home. They started to return to work with the 4 p.m. local time shift, said Josh Vlasto, a spokesman for Cuomo.

“The storm did have a silver lining,” said Cuomo.

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