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Lawmakers Hear Testimony on Con Ed Lockout

Fri, 07/27/2012 - 6:55am
KAREN MATTHEWS,Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Utility workers who have been locked out all month by Consolidated Edison Inc. charged Wednesday that the managers and replacement workers who are doing their jobs are not following safety procedures and are potentially endangering the public.

"We are greatly concerned that the replacement management workers and outside contractors are working without the necessary or required permits and certificates and are not working safely," said Harry Farrell, president of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America.

Farrell spoke at a hearing in lower Manhattan of the New York State Assembly Standing Committees on Labor, Energy and Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.

Earlier, Con Ed Senior Vice President of Electric Operations John Miksad told the Assembly members that the utility is adhering to all safety procedures.

"Our contingency plan is working and will continue to guide our mission until our union employees are back to work," Miksad said.

Con Ed locked out some 8,000 unionized workers on June 30 after their contract expired and negotiations over a new one failed. About 5,000 managers and replacement workers are keeping electricity going for 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester County.

Miksad said Con Ed locked out the workers because the union would not agree to provide three days' notice before going on strike.

"A simple signature by union leaders, agreeing to a 72-hour notice before calling a strike, is the only thing that stands between getting 8,000 people off picket lines and back on the job," he said.

Assembly members grilled Miksad on the strike notice requirement.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Ulster County asked why the strike notice wasn't in the last contract between Con Ed and Local 1-2 if it was so essential as to force a lockout.

"If it was so important, why didn't you negotiate it?" Cahill asked.

Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan told Miksad: "You are ripping apart the main power of unions across this nation if you say 'we need advance warning.' Management can't have all the power. That's not how this works in America."

Garry Brown, chairman of the state Public Service Commission, said the PSC is monitoring the situation.

Asked if the PSC has the authority to order an end to the lockout, he said "that's under review."

Also on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the two sides to end their dispute or be held accountable for any power losses.

Cuomo said the PSC can act, but only in a "severe event" that threatens safety and service.

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