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Union Skeptical Of Con Ed's New Contract Proposal

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y.— At Tuesday’s bargaining meeting between Con Edison and Local Union 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America, union leaders were presented with a new contract proposal, aspects of which the company made public, but union members were skeptical.

Talks at the LaGuardia Airport hotel, which follow three days of fruitless negotiations  last week, broke off around seven Tuesday night, and both sides returned to the table Wednesday morning to discuss the contract proposal, which would authorize wage increases of more than 10 percent over four years.

It would also allow workers hired before July 1, 2012 to maintain their current defined benefit pensions, which offer a series of monthly payments for life. All employees hired after that date would have the new cash balance pension, which limits the benefit to a stated account balance that can be taken either as a lump sum or as an annuity.

In response to a news release issued by Con Ed Tuesday afternoon, which listed seven “highlights” of the newest contract offer, Local 1-2 spokesman John Melia called its content “self-serving and full of half-truths and it was not an honest offer,” adding that the company is resorting to propaganda tactics with the public and the media.

Tuesday’s drama stems from events early on July 1, when 8,500 union employees were locked out of the company after the union's contract expired at midnight, and 5,000 company managers were called in to maintain electric, gas and steam services for Con Ed's 3.2 million customers.

The union issued a rebuttal Tuesday night charging that the release was “phony” and “full of double talk.”

According to the union’s statement, the positives of wage improvements of 10 percent over four years are negated by the fact that “Huge increases in employee payments for health care [will] wipe out any improvements in wages and reduce our standard of living.”

The contract proposal includes a provision that workers’ contributions to health-care premiums remain at 17 percent for the first year of the contract and grow to 24 percent by the fourth year.

The news release was “accurate,” according to Con Ed spokesman Allan Drury, and was issued to correct "misinformation" that had been circulating, including a rumor that the company was planning not to offer any wage increases.

When it comes to the bargaining table Wednesday morning, he said, the company is looking for the union to accept its offer, which they call a good, fair contract.

“We’re hopeful that there will be progress,” said Drury.

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