Con-Ed to workers: Take your 0.5%, give us a 2-tier and shut up

UPDATED (7/1/08)->: Midnight strike looms for Con Edison workers, keep up to date with the newsfeed

On June 13th. 9000 members of The Utility Workers local 1-2 (UWUA1-2), when faced with the idea of no raise in their upcoming contract(note: the last expired this morning), voted overwhelmingly to strike if their memberships needs were not addressed by the "Privately owned" Consolidated Edison.

In talks with a high ranking official of Local 1-2, the latest offer by Con Ed included a two-tier system where new workers would see a serious lack of benefits, almost no raise and as expected in todays day and age, raises in co-payments of health care. While the Governor has negotiated a 72 hour "cooling off period" whereby negotiations will continue Tuesday at 9AM, and the workers will remain on the job at least until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday night, there is the great possibility of a strike as of Wednesday.

According to Stephen Greenhouse and Ken Belson's article in Fridays NY Times, "Union Says It and Con Edison Are Far Apart on Contract", (6/27/08):
The union is opposed to company proposals to phase out a defined-benefit pension plan and to deduct workers’ compensation awards from employee pensions.

“If they continue to press the issue, we will walk,” promised Joe Flaherty, a spokesman for the union, which represents Con Edison workers everywhere but on Staten Island. “It seems to us that they want to force us out.”

Mr. Flaherty said his union was asking for wage increases because of rising prices for fuel, food and other basics. He noted that many cable splicers, meter readers, engineers and others must drive to work because they often travel among several locations.

Mr. Flaherty said that unlike previous negotiations, when only a handful of details remained unresolved so close to the contract’s expiration, this time the two sides had yet to agree on a host of significant issues.

“I’ve never seen it at this stage, when there’s absolutely nothing resolved,” he said. “I would say their position is stonewalling.”

A spokesman for Con Edison, Michael S. Clendenin, declined to respond to the union’s claims, saying: “We don’t negotiate in the press.”
That sounds a lot like the 2-tier system that I warned you about, and has made the auto-industry in the United States a working poor job.

If I worked for Con Ed, i would gladly go on strike, but I await the Main Stream Media's response that will ignore the facts and make it a "Unions fuck the people of New York" front page story like the NY Post editorial which attacked the striking Broadway Stagehands back in November 2007. (see "NY Post spin-doctoring and the IATSE Stagehands" (11/20/07) and "Remember if there is a strike, BLAME AMTRAK, not the union workers!" (1/17/08) )

Be prepared reader, Crain's and some other publications are already trying to make it a construction worker Vs. utility worker fight, meanwhile my source has assured me that they have gotten countless calls of support from other union officials, including many in the Building and Construction trades. They see the writing on the wall, and know that the greater fight is for a better future for New York's workers against this private utility monster.

Privatization Vs. American Workers, what GHI and HIP workers should expect
"One can only hope that the Utility Workers Union is serious about its strike threat. Pulling the workforce off the job for a protracted amount of time may help New Yorkers see that vital city functions such as the operation of utilities cannot be run privately." -Counterhegemonic at Independent Media Center

Talk about avoidance of a real news story, I have been following the misdeeds of HIP for quite some time, since I learned how the company fleeced our tax money to build downtown after 9/11 and promised to keep good paying jobs in the city and then moved those jobs out of the area, in fact 1 1/2 hours away by train to Long Island, in the article "HIP replaces 186 Downtown, NY jobs, breaking a massive promise", and how the privatization of both HIP and GHI will devastate New Yorker's who rely on their medical coverage in the article by "Building Bridges"

Heres a great article I found at NYC Independent Media Center entitled "Con Edison Workers and the Real Face of Privatization" (6/28/08):
Administrative workers at the currently non-profit health insurance companies GHI & HIP face the very real prospect of having their employer become a for-profit company. The exact meaning of this may seem murky. Nearly every study of privatization, particularly privatization in the healthcare industry, has demonstrated that spending on administration increases. Bad news for subscribers who need healthcare but seemingly great news for workers in search of fat paychecks, right?

The image “http://nyc.indymedia.org/images/2008/06/98371.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Well, the more than 9,000 workers currently employed by Con Edison would beg to differ. Contract talks between their now privately held employer and the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 have reached an impasse. The utility's stingy management has offered a 0.5% per -year wage increase and the union has threatened to walk off the job. As usual, the employer has appealed for mediation and "productive discussion" despite the fact that their wage offer is nearly 3% below the annual rate of inflation.

Con Ed supplies and maintains most of New York City's electric, gas and steam service. Since the company was de-regulated in 1998 there have been a series of high profile disasters. In 2005, stray voltage killed a woman who was walking her dog after she stepped on an electrified plate. 2007's disaster was even larger as an 83 year-old steam pipe burst in Midtown resulting in the death of one person and 40 injuries. Finally, the company is largely blamed for a massive blackout in Queens in 2006 for which they offered "inconvenienced" customers a $100 rebate check and a "brief apology."

Con Ed is the largest for-profit utility company in the country. Most urban utilities are either run by state-owned companies or tightly regulated non-profits. Con Ed has also spun out an energy subsidiary called Con Ed Energy which nationally markets electricity produced in NYC plants. This practice is held to be a root cause of a persistent wave of blackouts nation-wide.

So, in NYC a massive for-profit company is charged with servicing an infrastructure which is essentially crumbling under the weight of its own age. There has been no substantial effort post-1970s fiscal crisis to upgrade the urban infrastructure. This is perfectly fine with Con Ed executives as it ensures a steady line of funding for patchwork projects.

Now, however, even this is not enough. Now the company intends to squeeze every last penny out of both NYC citizens and its own workers paychecks. One can only hope that the Utility Workers Union is serious about its strike threat. Pulling the workforce off the job for a protracted amount of time may help New Yorkers see that vital city functions such as the operation of utilities cannot be run privately. The only motivation is profit - whether it come from soaring customer bills, work contracts from our city budget or from the wallets of workers.

Mark this as a little lesson for GHI & HIP workers and other folks facing possible privatization. The promised returns to you are just thinly veiled mirages. Lurking behind the seduction is a grim future where management is preparing to grind every last penny out of your pocket. The less protection you have the easier this will be.
By Counterhegemonic http://counterhegemonic.blogspot.com/
This is the third and last in my tirade against the Main Stream, you can view some of my favorites below:
The Employee Free Choice Act

Oh, just so I don't forget, those powers that control the media also don't want you to sign the petition that will be delivered to the next president of the United States with 1,000,000 American signatures on it, since I got your attention, give a minute of you time and sign the petition for the Employee free Choice Act. It's getting blatantly obvious that the corporations and the law firms that profit on our misery are terrified of the labor movement and will do everything in their power to curb this legislation. I recently wrote about how with guns and threats towards their employees, and the corporate controlled NLRB, who's last chairman, Robert Battista has joined up with America's largest union-avoidance law firm, how the current system does not work.

Click the image on the left to sign your name to the petition, do it for the 58 million American's who desperately want to be union, but are terrified of the bosses reprisals in the wait between signing the cards and the election.

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