NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Con Edison and the union representing more than 8,000 locked out workers will go back to the bargaining table Friday a day after resuming negotiations following an earlier breakdown.
Meanwhile, a noisy protest continued near Union Square in Manhattan. A crowd of around 300 union employees stood in front of the Con Edison headquarters, some playing drums and trumpets. Others were performing the “Tomahawk Chop” heard at Atlanta Braves and Florida State games; this time, the war chant was referring to Con Edison CEO Kevin Burke.
The negotiations broke down last weekend. On Thursday, the company put out a full-page ad blasting the union.
WCBS 880′s Jim Smith reports
“We believe it is important to communicate with our customers and let them know why the union employees are not at work,” Con Edison spokesman Alan Drury said.
The union fired back with a statement:
“Con Edison sunk to a new low with today’s misleading print ads. It’s bad enough that the company locked out workers who were willing to work past contract expiration with no strings attached, but now the Con Edison is spending its customers’ money to justify its deplorable actions”
As talks between the two sides resumed with a federal mediator, members of the Utility Workers Local 1-2 rallied outside Con Ed’s headquarters in Union Square.
“Our CEO makes $4,800 an hour. I make about $16.87 an hour” said one union worker. “If they want to raise my medical benefits to $133 a week, I can’t afford to work here. I’d be better off working at a fast food restaurant.”
“They don’t want to negotiate,” said another union worker. “It’s very discouraging. We’re only working families, that’s what we are.”
Con Ed, meanwhile, confirmed that it has canceled medical coverage for the locked out workers. The utility said it offered the union a contract extension with continued medical coverage, but the union refused.
Union spokesman John Melia said Con Ed is “acting like a corporate bully.”
“They’re using every tactic in the book to bust this union,” he said.
About 5,000 Con Ed managers have been out in the field responding to outages and other issues as the dispute enters its fifth day.
As a precaution, the power company has also reduced voltage by five percent in several sections of Brooklyn as crews work to repair ongoing problems.
Those neighborhoods are Crown Heights, East Flatbush, East New York, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Greenpoint, Flatbush, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Prospect Heights, Canarsie, Flatlands, Mill Basin, Old Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, Georgetown, Coney Island, Seagate, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay.
Con Ed said customers don’t need to do anything different and said it is still OK to use air conditioning.
The utility will also reduce voltage in the southeast Bronx.
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