(AP) NEW YORK - Contract negotiations between Consolidated Edison and its unionized workers broke down early Sunday, prompting the dismissal of about 8,500 workers, utility officials said. Union officials said the workers were locked out.
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, but utility officials said those fears are unfounded.
Negotiations between the Con Ed and Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America lasted just over 10 days. The contract expired at midnight Saturday, but talks continued early Sunday. There were a range of issues discussed from pensions to heath care and wages.
Negotiations broke down just before 2 a.m.
"We feel this is very unfortunate. Both sides are very far part," Con Ed spokesman Michael Clendenin said.
Union spokesman John Melia said the union negotiators were kicked out of the room in what he called a "union-busting tactic."
"This is not a labor issue," he said. "This is a corporate monopoly."
Clendenin said 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 workers. He said company officials had asked the union for a two-week extension to negotiate before talks broke down, which union officials denied.
Melia said the workers told the company they'd be willing to work without a contract until an agreement was reached to keep the power company running.
"We did everything to avert this action," he said. "We recognize that New York City is sweltering right now. ... We recognize we have a responsibility to the people of New York City and Westchester County."
The utility serves about 3.2 million customers.