In a letter sent today, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio expressed concern over the impact of Con-Ed’s worker lockout on public safety, and called on the company to explain the role of understaffing in creating “avoidable hazards.” Following Con-Ed’s announcement that it would close walk-in centers, suspend meter readings, and halt work on major projects as a result of the ongoing lockout, De Blasio urged the company to disclose which other critical public safety measures may be compromised by short-staffing.
“Con Ed needs to answer basic questions on service, brownouts, and inspections during this lockout. Enough is enough—the longer New Yorkers are forced to wait on a fair contract for Con Ed's workers, the more our quality of life and public safety are put at risk,” said Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Read Public Advocate de Blasio’s letter to Con Edison below:
Chairman, President, and CEO
4 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003
Dear Mr. Burke:
I write to you today about the lockout of 8,500 Con Ed workers and the serious issues stemming from that lockout. I remain convinced that the lockout is a lose-lose situation for the company, the employees, and millions of New Yorkers. Ultimately, the safety and reliability of critical services for our residents depends on getting experienced workers back to work. The latest reports of unclear information and incomplete inspections further underscore the need for renewed, good faith negotiations and a fair contract.
In particular, I am concerned about two issues arising from the lockout that adversely impact New York City residents and potentially compromise customer safety and consumer protections.
First, I am concerned over the potential compromises to consumer services as a consequence of understaffing. In response to the reduction in experienced workers, Con Ed has announced that it would be closing walk-in centers, suspending meter readings, and halting work on major projects. In this peak electricity season, these compromised services adversely impact all New York City residents. Low-income New Yorkers face an added burden, as they may not be able to shoulder the potential added costs of estimated meter readings or may not have access to a computer to pay their bills online.
My office has also heard from constituents who have been negatively impacted by voltage reductions, or ‘brownouts.’ While Con Ed’s website provides general information about which neighborhoods may be impacted, I am concerned about reports that Con Ed has reduced the transparency and specificity of this information. As the region copes with rolling heat waves, it is imperative that residents have access to clear, up-to-date information relating to electricity usage and constraints. I urge Con Ed to improve transparency relating to voltage reductions and include expanded information on the Con Ed website.
Second, I am concerned over potential compromises to public safety. A recent article in the New York Post raised questions regarding the completion of safety inspections of natural-gas lines across the City. I understand that you have reported completing the 2012 survey, but allegations have persisted regarding the thoroughness of your inspections in residential areas. It is in this vein that I respectfully request information about any regions where inspections may have been insufficient.
Reports raise similar questions regarding other critical public safety measures. In particular, I am concerned that Con Ed does not have sufficient capacity to monitor for stray voltage, which can cause injurious or fatal electrical charges. In the interest in public safety, please provide full disclosure as to whether Con Ed’s monitoring capabilities have been compromised by the current workforce reductions.
I think we can agree on this bottom line: the lockout cannot imperil New Yorkers’ safety. I am becoming increasingly concerned that this lockout has diminished services and created avoidable hazards. I urge you to move swiftly to negotiate a fair contract with your workers so they can get back to work and we can ensure the safety and satisfaction of all New Yorkers.
Bill de Blasio
Public Advocate for the City of New York