As the Con Edison lockout enters its 20th day, stories are emerging of workers who are struggling without healthcare coverage and supervisors who are exhausted from suddenly being thrust into 12 hour days covering the very physical jobs they held years ago. To make matters worse, temperatures are hitting record highs, and the utility is being forced to lower wattages being supplied to segments of their customer base.
The media is enjoying painting this as the crisis de jure, but the reality is that - this too will pass. A new contract will be ratified. In fact, the parties are already scheduling talks, a sign of impending progress.
The real issue is – once the dispute is settled, everyone is back to work and the lights (and air conditioning) are safely running once again, will the Con Edison execs and labor leaders jointly take any action to avoid a repeat of the entire situation upon the expiration date of the new labor contract?
Like all history, labor history does repeat itself, and those who fail to learn from it assure its recurrence. However, one truth we have learned here at Overland Resource Group is that it is possible for companies and the organized labor groups that represent their employees to be as thoughtfully structured for collaboration as they are for negotiations. With the right structures, systems and processes in place – and the skills learned and modeled by both labor and management leaders – Con Edison and its union can work toward finding shared interests, resolving conflicts before they escalate, and achieving mutually beneficial goals that will help the company, the union and all of their stakeholders thrive for the long-term.