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Con Ed Talks Break Down, Managers Called To Work

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Con Edison officials announced early Sunday that contract talks between the utility and Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America had broken down and managers were being called in to maintain electric, gas and steam service to the company's 3.2 million customers.

The unionized workers were locked out after contract negotiations failed. According to union spokesman John Melia the talks had been going on for 10 days. The contract expired at midnight Saturday.

Talks broke off shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday with both parties saying they remain "far apart" on the key issues including pensions, salary and health care.

The union represents about 8,000 Con Edison employees. Con Ed spokesman Don Clendenin said the company's offer to extend the current contract remains on the table, adding that if the union leadership agrees to extend the current contract, the company would "welcome its employees back immediately."

According to Con Edison, management also offered to continue negotiations if both sides agreed to give each other seven days advance notice of a strike or work stoppage. The union rejected the offer, according to the utility.

Clendenin issued a statement early Sunday saying Con Ed made the decision to bring in its management employees after they had prepared for a walkout over the past few months. The move, he said, was necessary to ensure customers had reliable service.

Word of the walkout comes amid a heatwave in Westchester County. The forecast for Sunday calls for increasing clouds, with a high near 90, and temperatures are expected to be in the upper 80s on Monday and Tuesday.