|Members of Utility Workers Union picket Con Edison headquarters in Manhattan July 3.|
“They want to take away our pensions and change our health benefits,” said Samantha Turner, 35. “Health insurance for my family would jump from $54 to $133 a week.” Workers on the picket line say Con Ed wants to replace guaranteed pensions with a “cash balance” plan.
“We’re not asking for more,” Turner said. “Just to keep what we have.”
“Con Ed’s looking to get more production with less hours and less manpower,” said manhole worker Jason Egger, 26. “The cost of living is going up and they want us to go back for less.”
A supervisor was reported injured during the first 24 hours of the lockout, burned while repairing a substation in Brooklyn.
Con Ed spokesperson Allan Drury told the Militant via email that the company locked workers out not because of disputes over pensions or other benefits but because “the union leadership refused to provide adequate notice of a strike or other job action” while contract negotiations continued.
Con Edison wants the union to agree to a “seven days advance notice of a strike” before it will end the lockout, he said. A statement on the Con Ed website said the company “had been preparing” for the lockout for months.
According to the New York Times, union and company officials agreed to meet with federal mediators July 5 to discuss restarting negotiations.
Spirits were high on the picket line. Some Transport Workers and Teachers union members joined earlier in the day.
“It’s a beautiful thing to be fighting for our rights,” said Turner.
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