NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Contract negotiations between Consolidated Edison and its unionized workers broke down early on Sunday, prompting the dismissal of about 8,500 workers, utility officials said. Managers were being brought in to run the utility.

“We feel this is very unfortunate,” Con Ed spokesman Michael Clendenin said. “Both sides are very far part.”

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There were a range of issues discussed, from pensions to healthcare and wages.

WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reports 

Union spokesman John Melia said that negotiations between the power company and Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America lasted just over 10 days. The contract expired at midnight on Saturday, but talks continued early Sunday.

“In essence, Con Ed — which is a regulated monopoly — told its customers and the residents of New York City and Westchester County to drop dead during this heat wave,” Melia told 1010 WINS.

1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reports 

They were suspended just before 2 a.m. with a possible strike still on the table.

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Clendenin said that the company was calling in 5,000 managers, some of them immediately, to run the utility because it couldn’t run the risk of a strike by the unionized workers. He said that company officials had asked the union for a two-week extension to negotiate before talks broke down.

The negotiations occurred as New York braced for more hot weather, and caused worry that people would be unable to use power for air conditioning. Utility officials, however, have said that those fears are unfounded.

The breakdown in communication between union members and the utility means that customers can expect non-emergency services to be limited. Con Ed officials said that company walk-in centers will be closed, meter readings will be suspended and non-emergency major construction projects will be limited.

However, customers can pay their bills by mail, online or over the phone. And in the case of emergency, customers can continue to call 1-800-75-CONED for assistance.

The utility serves about 3.2 million customers in Westchester County and New York City. Union workers are planning to rally at 7 a.m. on Monday morning, outside of the Con Ed headquarters near Union Square.

Could there possibly be a worse time for this to occur? Sound off with your thoughts and comments on this developing story below…

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