NEW YORK CITY — As a heat wave continued to scorch the city, thousands of Con Edison workers were locked out of their jobs after contract talks between the utility and its biggest union broke down early Sunday.
Con Ed said 5,000 managers were filling in for employees who usually keep power flowing to air conditioners across the city, as temperatures climbed once again into the mid 90s and the National Weather Service issued a heat advisory.
The managers stepped in for the unionized employees, who were locked out after the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Local 1-2 refused an offer to extend their contract for two weeks while talks continued, Con Ed said in a statement.
The contract expired at midnight on June 30, and union members had said they would strike if contract negotiations broke down. The workers were locked out as of 2 a.m. Sunday, said union spokesman John Melia.
"We as a union will meet with Con Ed again any time, any place, but they have to make the first move since they threw us out of the office," John Melia told DNAinfo New York on Sunday morning.
Con Ed said its workers had been preparing for months for the possibility of a work stoppage, and insisted that service wouldn't be affected.
But union president Harry J. Farrell claimed the utility was courting disaster by putting supervisors on duty during a heat wave when the utility's resources were strained. Con Ed customers in Brooklyn and Queens were hit with power outages during a recent heat wave.
"Con Edison Chairman Kevin Burke is playing a dangerous game of chicken with the public and has a disaster in the making if he forces a work disruption and the system goes down," Farrell said in a statement last week. "Burke’s managers just do not have the knowledge or expertise to keep the system operating if they force our hand. All we are seeking is a fair contract for our labor."
The union, which represents about 8,000 employees, instructed employees on how to enroll in unemployment benefits in an announcement on its website on Sunday.