Con Ed reinstates workers' health insurance

(AP) - Consolidated Edison has reinstated health insurance for 8,500 locked-out New York utility workers.

But with another heat wave forecast for this week, a union spokesman said Sunday that there's been no apparent progress in contract negotiations.

John Melia of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 told The Associated Press that Con Ed is struggling to keep power flowing to Brooklyn's Bensonhurst neighborhood.

The utility hired contractors who are trying to replace a critical transformer at the Bensonhurst electric substation, Melia said. But the equipment must be loaded on a crane whose operators are respecting the workers' Brooklyn picket lines, he said.

A Con Ed spokesman could not immediately confirm the report.

On Sunday, negotiators took the day off. Talks between the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2 and Con Ed were to resume Monday as forecasts predict high temperatures in the 90s for New York City early this week.

Going into the third week of negotiations, there have been no major outages despite one heat wave.

The Con Ed workers were locked out on June 30 after their contract expired and negotiations over a new one failed. About 5,000 managers, former employees and contractors are keeping electricity going for 3.2 million customers in New York City and Westchester County

Neither Con Ed nor the union has indicated any real progress. Major issues include pensions, wages and health care costs.

Melia said the company "bowed to public pressure" in reinstating the health insurance.

Workers are covered for July, retroactively, while collecting unemployment insurance.

Last week, the union asked state regulators to order Con Ed to end the lockout, charging that the utility giant is violating its obligations. A union petition asks the New York State Public Service Commission to consider whether Con Ed is providing "quality, reliability and safety" of service during the lockout.

The commission said it has asked Con Ed to respond by Tuesday.Con Ed lockout presses on following contract rejection

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