During the current heat wave, the city watches a labor battle between Con Edison management and union employees responsible for helping the city if a blackout occurs.

Members of Utility Workers of America Local 1-2, the union that represents 8,500 Con Edison employees, were picketing outside of their company’s headquarters in Manhattan after new contract talks fell through over the weekend. As a result of the breakdown, management locked out workers as a defensive gesture against any potential calls for a strike.

After talks broke down, Con Ed also closed walk-in centers, shut down most construction work on projects and suspended meter readings.

Lying at the center of the contract dispute is pension benefits. Management wants to continue the current contract only if the union promises not to strike unless they give seven days notice. The union said it was willing to keep on ironing out a new deal without a contract but refused to give management seven days notice on a strike.

In a release, Con Ed said that management “offered to continue negotiations if both sides agreed to give each other seven days advance notice of a strike or work stoppage. The union rejected the offer.” The company also said that they were willing to extend the contract to July 14 to continue negotiations and the union refused.

In literature distributed to union workers–and available for viewing on the union’s website at http://uwua1-2.org–ensures their constituents that they will “Stay Strong and Stay in Touch. We want you to know that we are willing to do whatever it takes!” The documents also remind workers that they are “entitled to immediate unemployment benefits” and devoted a page to questions and answers regarding said benefits.

Con Ed said they’re properly prepared for the long haul if a deal isn’t reached in a prompt manner.

“About 50 percent of the company management employees assigned to maintain essential service for field work have moved up through the union ranks, and all company personnel have been preparing for the possibility of a union work stoppage for months,” read their statement.

New York City residents could bear the brunt of what happens if a deal isn’t reached soon.