As temperatures hung just below 100 degrees in Queens and elsewhere in New York City, Con Edison locked out about 8,000 workers after their union refused to extend their existing contract while management and workers remain at an impasse over a new one.
Con Ed said that about 5,000 management personnel are working to keep the power on as the high temperatures drive the use of air conditioners, straining the power grid in the city.
The contract deadline came at midnight as Saturday turned into Sunday. Con Ed said management personnel were called in at 1 a.m. to do the work normally done by the union employees. And it blamed the union, Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America, for refusing to extend the existing contract, an offer it said is still on the table, and to provide a week's notice before any strike. The utility said it had offered to give a week's notice before any lockout in exchange.
"The company offered to extend the current contract until July 14 in an attempt to resolve outstanding issues, but the union leadership refused to agree to this extension while talks continued," Con Ed said in a prepared statement posted on its website. "Without a contract and the assurance that the union leadership would not call a strike without notice, Con Edison said the company would not have been able to assure customers of reliable service, a responsibility which it takes seriously.
"The company said it appreciated the hard work of its union employees, but that it must work to achieve a contract that is fair and equitable for both employees and customers. Con Edison said its negotiators have presented numerous proposals to the union leadership to address long-term wage and benefit issues, in an effort to meet the needs of employees while respecting the cost concerns of customers."
The UWUA posted a notice of the lockout on its website, saying it took effect at 2 a.m.
Addressed to the union's "brothers and sisters," it said, "Be sure to stay in touch with your shop stewards and picket captains. There will be much more information to follow. Stay Strong and Stay in Touch. We want you to know that we are willing to do Whatever it takes!"
It then listed ways members could get further updates through text messages and social media, and noted that the workers are entitled to immediate unemployment benefits. Attached to the statement was information from the state Department of Labor on how to file a claim.
Con Ed's statement said the company would continue to respond to emergencies but that work on non-emergency projects would be limited. It wrapped up by saying:
* Customers should know that they can continue to call 1-800-75CONED for service problems at any time. If you smell gas, call us immediately. For questions about bills, please call between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
* Company walk-in centers will be closed; however payments will continue to be processed by mail, at authorized payment agents, by the Con Edison automated phone system (1-800-75-CONED), and on the Internet.
* Meter reading will be suspended for most customers. Where meter reading is suspended, estimates will be automatically prepared based on account records.