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New York utility Consolidated Edison responded to stalled contract negotiations by locking out 8,500 union power workers on Sunday, leaving New Yorkers worried about power outages during hot weather. As in virtually every other contentious contract negotiation we've seen lately, the company wants to move new hires to a 401(k) type retirement plan rather than continuing a pension plan, and is seeking to sharply increase workers' health care contributions. Federal mediators are involved.

Con Ed offered a two-week contract extension to continue negotiations, but made it contingent on the union giving seven days notice of a strike; the union rejected that, with a spokesman saying "How does one give up the only leverage a union has?" The union, though, says it offered to continue working without a contract while negotiations continued, only to be locked out. Lockouts, remember, are an offensive move companies undertake to proactively weaken union contracts, and lockouts are becoming more common as strikes become less common. In this case, Con Ed's decision to lock out workers potentially creates hazards for New Yorkers:

"Con Ed must end its lockout and allow the workers to return to their jobs while the new contract is negotiated," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement Monday.

"When the power goes out and air conditioning and lights go off, it is often the most vulnerable such as the elderly and chronically ill that suffer with often serious consequences," the speaker said.

Union workers are picketing outside the utility's headquarters; negotiations are slated to resume Thursday.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 07:12 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement and Daily Kos.

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