Con Edison fight with local Utility Workers of America continues
CRAIG D. FRAZIER Special to the AmNews | 7/12/2012, 3:52 p.m.
Talks resumed Tuesday afternoon between Con Ed and Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America. Even as the two sides resumed bargaining for the first time since Saturday, they remained gridlocked on pensions, health care and wages. Con Ed locked out 8,500 workers after negotiations over their contract renewal failed on July 1.
Hundreds of locked out workers picketed outside Con Ed headquarters in Manhattan. Some felt that since the company continues to make record profits, there is no reason for worker concessions.
"There is no reason why they should take anything away from us. The vast majority of workers believe that the union is doing the right thing," said Local 1-2 worker of seven years Ed Rivera. "We take care of all of New York City. We need to be taken care of."
The biggest point of contention is that Con Ed wants new hires to shift to a cash-balance retirement plan from a traditional defined-benefit plan. The union has said that would create a two-tiered system among workers.
"You can't divide the union," Local 1-2 spokesman John Melia told reporters outside Con Ed headquarters.
The union doesn't seem optimistic about the talks. It says there have been a number of proposals since negotiations began, and this is just the latest one. Melia called it "outrageous" that Con Ed "would seek to negotiate in the public square."
Con Ed has said that its retirement plan would still be generous, but that it needs the changes to deal with rising costs. "They make a good wage. They make very good benefits," said Michael Clendenin, Con Ed's director of media relations. "They make benefits and pensions and 401k plans that many companies across the country are no longer even offering."
Con Ed has brought in replacement workers from out of state to supplement the 5,000 managers who have been doing the jobs of the unionized workforce since the lockout began. At least four managers have been injured on the job since the lockout began, Con Ed said, including one man whose face was burned while on the job and another who was blasted in the ear with an air horn by a protesting worker.