- - Sunday, July 1, 2012

NEW YORK — Consolidated Edison closed walk-in centers, suspended meter readings and limited work on major construction projects in New York on Sunday after contract talks between the utility and its unionized workers broke down in the middle of a wave of extremely hot weather.

Negotiations stopped just before 2 a.m. Sunday, a couple of hours after the existing contract expired. The impasse came as New York braced for more high temperatures that will increase demand for air conditioning among the utility’s 3.2 million customers. Temperatures were expected to reach into the 90s Sunday, with a heat advisory for the afternoon, and be in the high 80s and lower 90s in coming days.

The extreme weather also included vicious storms from Indiana to New Jersey and south to Virginia that killed at least 13 people and left 3 million without power. Most of the damage came in the mid-Atlantic region, and only scattered outages across Con Ed’s service area in New York were reported as of Sunday morning. Con Ed said it is keeping a close watch on its system and has trained managers working on essential operations.

The 8,500 unionized workers told the company they’d be willing to work without a contract to keep the power company running, said John Melia, spokesman for Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers of America.

MINNESOTA

Delta Air Lines pilots ratify new contract

MINNEAPOLIS — Pilots at Delta Air Lines approved a new contract on Friday that will prompt a major shift in the way Delta uses smaller jets.

The deal is likely to become a benchmark for pilot talks at United Airlines, too, and will ripple through negotiations at other airlines. And because unhappy pilots can make it tougher to run an airline, Delta will benefit from having a settled contract that runs through the end of 2015.

The new contract will allow Delta to accelerate a shift toward bigger jets and away from smaller, money-losing 50-seat regional jets that connect passengers in smaller cities to Delta hubs. The shifts won’t happen overnight, but rather over the next few years. In some cases, Delta is expected to need to renegotiate airplane leases and agreements with the feeder airlines that it hires to fly under the Delta Connection name.

The new deal lets Delta get rid of 50-seat regional jets more quickly, while at the same time flying more 76-seat jets. Fifty-seaters have become money-losers due to higher fuel prices. Passengers generally prefer bigger jets, and Delta has long said it wants to reduce its use of 50-seat planes.

ALGERIA

Energy minister says OPEC may gather

ALGIERS — Algeria’s energy minister has raised the possibility of an extraordinary meeting of OPEC countries to discuss falling oil prices.

Youcef Yousfi said Sunday in Algiers that it was agreed at the last OPEC gathering that there would be a meeting “to correct imbalances,” if the market reached a certain point. He didn’t say what that red line would be.

Benchmark crude had been hovering around $80 per barrel. But on Friday oil soared the most in more than three years after European leaders took surprisingly aggressive steps to halt a debt crisis that has undermined confidence in the global economy. Benchmark U.S. crude ended the week at $84.96 per barrel in New York.

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