NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York State Assembly committee held a hearing Wednesday to examine Con Edison‘s service and safety record since a lockout of its 8,500 unionized workers began last month.
About 5,000 managers have been keeping electricity going for 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester County since the workers were locked out June 30 after their contract expired.
Neither side has reported any real progress in negotiations.
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports
John Miksad, Con Edison‘s Senior Vice President of Electric Operations, testified that the utility has been responding to emergencies efficiently despite several heat waves, and that the utility is adhering to all safety procedures.
EXTRA: John Miksad’s Testimony (pdf)
“The lights are on. The stock market is open, the subways are running, and hospitals are performing their critical functions. It’s summer in the city and air conditioners are humming. New York City is open for business,” Miksad said. “We bear a tremendous responsibility to the world’s most dynamic and demanding marketplace. And it is a responsibility that we are continuing to meet even under the present circumstances.”
However, union workers disagreed saying the replacement workers are not following safety procedures and could endanger the public.
Harry Farrell, president of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America, calls the situation a nightmare waiting to happen.
Assemblyman Kevin Cahill expressed concern for the managers asking, “How long can these folks be expected to hold out doing this kind of work? How much longer can you have 12 hour shifts? Six or seven day work weeks?”
Miksad said that morale is still high and that there is a strong level of resolve but admitted that the workers are getting tired.
Miksad defended the lockout saying it was a way to ensure safe and reliable operations.
Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas urged Miksad to end the lockout.
“What Con Edison needs to do is sit down and understand that you are dealing with people’s lives, people’s health and that the best workforce who is available to do the job is the workforce who has been doing it for the past 20 years,” Simotas said.
Though some workers have suffered injuries, Miksad said, “in the last three and a half weeks our safety record has been as good or better than it was before the lockout.”
The most serious injury involved a worker who received second-degree facial burns while working in a manhole.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reports
Miksad testified that the union could return to work if they agree to give Con Ed 72 hours notice before a strike.
Farrell said he would not agree to those terms.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is warning Con Ed and its union to end their labor dispute and lockout now, or each will be held accountable for any power losses.
The governor is calling for a quick end to the dispute. He said the state Public Service Commission can act, but only in a “severe event” that threatens safety and service.
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