NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The combination of a union lockout and the threat of severe weather could have created a perfect storm of problems for Con Edison, but instead it's created the perfect solution.
The utility's emergency preparations for the storm bearing down on the Metropolitan area got a whole lot easier Thursday after Gov. Andrew Cuomo used his bully pulpit to get the utility and the union to agree to let critically needed electrical workers return to work, CBS 2's Marcia Kramer reported.
"My guys are going to go back to work and they're going to do what they have to do, what they always do, to restore outages and make sure everybody in the city is safe," said Harry Farrell, president of Local 1-2.
"What is paramount is the safety of New Yorkers and the service that the workers and Con Edison provide. You don't want a storm hitting New York City without Con Ed being at full force,'' Cuomo told reporters, including 1010 WINS's Stan Brooks.
1010 WINS' Stan Brooks reports
Cuomo had worried that the lockout of 8,500 Con Ed workers, including 3,000 who are responsible for maintaining the electrical system and repairing outages, could have compromised safety of New Yorkers. And so, after getting the agreement for the electrical workers to report for duty, the governor and his staff helped facilitate an agreement ending the 26-day labor dispute.
"They spent five hours in a room with me and they desperately wanted to leave the room. They just came to terms to get away from me," Gov. Cuomo said.
Con Ed has said its command center is running and it has brought in some 750 private contractors from as far away as Texas to do repairs and remove downed trees if necessary. The utility also positioned crews in Westchester County, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island to be ready to respond immediately to outages.
"Typically, when we have a thunderstorm, the overhead distribution system … trees come down. They impact our distribution lines," Con Ed CEO Kevin Burke said.
Con Ed said crews will respond first to areas where the greatest numbers of people are affected. The labor agreement solves health, pension and wage disputes.
The unionized workers were locked out on June 30 after their contract expired. About 5,000 managers had been keeping the system running in their place.
A storm system that is expected to hit the metropolitan area Thursday evening could bring heavy rain, high winds and hail that may cause widespread power outages.
"I think this storm actually had a silver lining by bringing these parties together to start to do business and interact and develop good faith and to come to this resolution," Cuomo said.
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