2012-07-19 / Front Page

Talks Fizzle During Sizzle

By Sam Akhtar

Photo by Sam Akhtar Photo by Sam Akhtar With New York City baking through its fourth heat wave, consumers are suffering the effects of the ice-cold contract talks between Con Edison management and union leadership.

Rolling power surges have been reported throughout Brooklyn. Hundreds of customers in Canarsie and Georgetown have had to suffer sporadic episodes. As recently as Tuesday, 20,000 residents of Starrett City were without power for about a half hour.

Both management and the union say they want to resolve this stalemate.

Management has said it needs to reduce certain costs and feels the union should compromise. The union feels management is reaping the benefits but not dealing in good faith.

While the war of words and mistrust escalates, it is the 9 million consumers who are caught in the amphitheatre of this carnage. On one hand, management has released press releases assuring service remains reliable during the current lockout while it reaches new electric peaks for 2012. According to its Tuesday release, the company states the leadership of the union “refused proposals that would have kept workers on the job” and goes on to reiterate it “had no choice but to call a lockout.”

From left to right: Gerard Lieberman, Nick Frustaci, Frank Borgese and Gabe Borges at Bergen Avenue on the corner of Avenue L From left to right: Gerard Lieberman, Nick Frustaci, Frank Borgese and Gabe Borges at Bergen Avenue on the corner of Avenue L Now entering its third week, the rhetoric has really heated up.

In the very same release, management says “In fact, there have been instances of sabotage to company property and operations since the work stoppage began.” In particular, “…union protestors are trying to block the delivery of equipment needed at a substation in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.” The utility company goes on “Protestors have also blocked deliveries of fuel to generators being used to keep electrical service reliable in certain Brooklyn neighborhoods.”

On the other hand, President of Local 1-2 Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) Harry J. Farrell also released a statement this past Monday. Farrell maintains the union did not strike and that the company “threw us on the street.” The union’s release goes on to accuse management of making a “cynical, calculated decision to lock out its professional workforce and rely instead on geriatric office workers, retired older workers, out of state renegades and office managers to keep the electric, gas and steam grids operating.”

After these comments, is it any wonder contract talks haven’t been progressing?

Meanwhile, on Bergen Avenue on the corner of Avenue L, union workers were picketing a Con Ed trailer on Monday. The consensus was the same. “No one wins with a strike,” said protestor Nick Frustaci. Local area resident and union member Frank Borgese told the Canarsie Courier “It has been frustrating, slow. We want to go back to work.” While management scrambles to troubleshoot areas, such as Flatbush and Avenue V, both sides seem disillusioned.

Outside company headquarters on Irving Place in the city, strike captain, John Biancaniello, says the union has “To stay hopeful even as the company doesn’t want to budge.” When asked how he feels the public perceives the union’s position, business agent, Tony Vallone said “I believe the public is on our side.”

As the workers stood behind the barricades on either side of the street, signs asked drivers to honk their horns to show their support and sure enough, they did.

Pedestrians stopped and asked protestors “What’s going on with the talks?”

As of press time, contract talks were set to resume but neither side seems confident a resolution will be reached quickly. In the meanwhile, consumers go about their days and nights sweating out the summer sizzle and seem to be at the eye of this storm. With the two sides growing further and further apart, consumers may be left in the dark searching for answers.

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