Paterson intervenes to delay Con Ed strike

NEW YORK - Gov. David Paterson intervened late Saturday in talks between Con Ed and the union representing almost two-thirds of the utility's workforce just minutes before the midnight deadline for a strike expired.

He persuaded both sides to agree to a "cooling off period," a spokesman for the governor said. The governor suggested the move to allow tempers to subside so both parties could return to the bargaining table.

Negotiations were suspended early Sunday and were scheduled toresume at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Paterson spokesman Errol Cockfield said.Cockfield said the governor had been monitoring the talks whilerecovering at his Manhattan home from surgery Saturday morning toremove a cataract.

Paterson, concerned about the impact of possible service disruptions on customers created by a strike during the summer, reached out by telephone to Con Edison chief executive Kevin Burke and Harry Farrell, president of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 1-2, Cockfield said.

Union spokesman Joe Flaherty said a new deadline was set forTuesday at 11:59 p.m. "We hope Con Ed will come to its senses and start bargaining in good faith in the interest of the good people of New York City and Westchester County, who would be inconvenienced" by a strike, Flaherty said.

Con Edison spokesman Michael Clendenin said the giant utility remained hopeful a deal would be reached when negotiations resume. "It's not a matter of if but when," Clendenin said.

The union had said its 9,000 members would walk off the job early Sunday if talks didn't result in a better contract offer. Most of the workers maintain the utility's gas, electric and steam delivery systems.

But Clendenin has said a strike wouldn't disrupt service. He said Con Edison managers - about half of whom rose through the utility's ranks - would respond to any emergencies if workers struck. Con Edison has nearly 14,000 employees in all.

However, non-emergency repairs and meter reading could bedelayed, Clendenin said.

Negotiations between the union and the utility have gone down to the last minute several times before. The last strike occurred in 1983.

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