UPDATE 1-Con Edison, union resume talks Friday as NYC broils

Sat Jul 7, 2012 12:10am IST

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* Con Ed reduces voltage in NY's Brooklyn, Bronx
    * Company, union still far apart in talks-union
    * Heat wave to bake New York through weekend


    By Scott DiSavino
    NEW YORK, July 6 (Reuters) - Contract talks between
Consolidated Edison Inc and locked-out union workers
resumed Friday morning while replacement crews struggled to end
brownouts in Brooklyn and the Bronx as New York City sweltered
in a prolonged heat wave.
    The company and the union negotiated for about 10 hours on
Thursday without reaching a deal. They started again at about 9
a.m. Eastern Time Friday and were currently taking a lunch
break, a union spokesman said.
    Despite the ongoing talks, John Melia, the spokesman for the
Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2, representing 8,500
Con Edison union workers locked out by the company on July 1,
said the two sides were still far apart.
    "Nothing has changed. Things are still grim," Melia told
Reuters. In addition to health care costs and wages, one of the
major sticking points is the company's insistence that defined
benefit pensions be changed to a 401(k) type of retirement
savings account.
    A spokeswoman at Con Edison, Sara Banda, said it was too
early to say how the talks were going since they were still
ongoing.
    Neither side could say whether the talks would continue over
the weekend.
    "We won't know whether the talks will continue over the
weekend until later today," Melia said.
    Meanwhile, a heat wave continued to bake the Big Apple for a
third day in a row and replacement crews made up mostly of Con
Edison managers sweated in the heat as New Yorkers cranked up
their air conditioners, straining parts of the grid.
    Temperatures in New York were expected to reach as high as
92 Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) on Friday, 98 F on Saturday and 90 F
on Sunday before returning to more normal levels in the mid-80s
next week, according to AccuWeather.com.
    On Wednesday, Con Edison reduced voltage by 5 percent in
several Brooklyn neighborhoods to protect the overall system and
maintain service as crews fixed lines feeding power to the
communities.
    On Thursday, the company reduced voltage in additional
Brooklyn neighborhoods and in some Bronx neighborhoods.
    The company said the replacement crews had made some repairs
but were still working on feeder cables in the affected
neighborhoods.
    The voltage reductions remained in place Friday afternoon.  
  Air conditioning doesn't lose power in a voltage reduction,
but incandescent lights, hot water heaters and some motors are
slightly affected.
    The reductions were the first since the company locked out
the union workers after contract talks broke down.
 
    Con Edison said the voltage reductions were unrelated to the
lockout, noting the company had reduced the voltage in parts of
Brooklyn and Queens during a heat wave before the lockout in
June.
    But the union said the voltage reductions were a sign that
Con Edison could not keep the system running without the union
workers.
    "If something goes wrong, Con Edison will not be able to
respond in a timely manner, endangering all New Yorkers," the
union's Melia said.
    
    WORKERS INJURED
    The union has claimed the replacement workers were suffering
injuries due to their inexperience.
    Four replacement workers have been injured since the lockout
began but none of the injuries was life threatening, according
to Con Edison.
    One worker suffered second-degree burns on his face, another
had a suspected heart attack while off duty, a third had minor
burns on his hand, and the fourth suffered partial hearing loss
after an air horn was blasted in his ear.
    The company said many managers in the field came up from the
union ranks and were experienced in fixing the cables to keep
the system running.
    So far, voltage reductions were relatively minor, and only
134 customers were without power Friday afternoon -- out of the
3.2 million homes and businesses Con Edison serves in New York
City and Westchester County.
    The company asked all customers to conserve power during the
heat wave but has not told customers in the affected Brooklyn
and Bronx neighborhoods to turn off their air conditioners.
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