NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Angry, unionized workers are protesting Con Edison’s decision to lock them out of their jobs as many wonder whether the power company’s management can cope with potential outages as the mercury soars.
Con Ed workers booed managers leaving company headquarters in Gramercy on Monday — with some bosses reacting poorly to the union animosity, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
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The anger stemmed from the fact that Con Ed locked out more than 8,000 workers in a contract dispute, assigning about 5,000 managers to do essential jobs like coping with power outages — until the dispute is settled.
“We are checking to make sure that the electric grid stays up. We’re in constant communication between Con Ed and the city’s Office of Emergency Management. We get hourly updates when the heat is great,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb.
Harry Farrell, the president of Local 102 of the Utility Workers of America, said he doesn’t think the supervisors are up to the task of going down into a manhole to fix a serious outage.
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“These supervisors … they haven’t done the job in many, many years and if you’re not doing this job every single day you forget what it’s like, the dangers that are involved,” Farrell said.
And with temperatures soaring outages are always a threat. Since the lockout there have been at least two power failures and in one a supervisor was burned, CBS 2’s Kramer reported.
“I would say it’s very irresponsible of this company to do what they did to the citizens of the city of New York,” Farrell said.
However, Con Ed said it’s coping very nicely. In the 12th floor Manhattan control room on Monday managers were monitoring the borough’s transformers. Spokesman Michael Clendenin showed CBS 2’s Kramer a situation board that indicated — at least at that moment — that all systems were a go.
“We’re confident that we can handle any outages. We did yesterday. We had some in Queens and Brooklyn. We sent our management personnel our crews out there and they got the power on pretty quickly,” Clendenin said.
Some customers, though, said they were not as confident.
“Frightening, I’m frightened. That’s what I am because if I’m in my apartment I’ll die without air conditioning,” Gramercy Park resident Rosemary Demko said.
“It’s a little frustrating,” another person said.
“To be selfish? Yeah, it concerns us. It’s hot out here. We pay good money in New York City,” added Adam Goodman of Murray Hill.
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Local leaders have been calling on both sides to go back to the bargaining table, which is scheduled to happen Thursday, CBS 2’s Kramer reported.
“Resolving this impasse and lockout is in everyone’s best interest,” State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a statement. “With temperatures high, customers need assurance that service will not interrupted.”
“It is imperative that Con Ed negotiate in fairness and good faith. It doesn’t appear to be good-faith bargaining when a company locks out its employees in the dark of night,” City Comptroller John Liu said in a statement. “Con Ed’s CEO has raked in $24.8 million over the last five years, yet the company is pushing for its workers to pay far more for health insurance and give up their current defined-benefit pensions. More than 3 million customers depend on Con Ed for electricity, and all efforts must be made to prevent any service disruptions during the summer heat wave. Cooler heads must prevail – or New York City could swelter.”
Con Ed said that while the dispute continues it will continue to respond to any emergencies that arise.
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