CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Members of the United Mine Workers of America have voted to ratify a settlement with bankrupt Patriot Coal.
The union said Friday night that current or laid-off Patriot workers in West Virginia and Kentucky voted 85 percent to 15 percent in favor of the agreement reached late last week.
Some 1,800 members from 13 locals were voting.
St. Louis-based Patriot says it wants the company to survive, and union President Cecil Roberts says a deal may let that happen.
The settlement would restore most wage cuts that Patriot had sought as part of its reorganization.
Roberts says the deal also reduces the restoration of some benefits and the continuation of others.
Pension benefits for thousands of current retirees would be maintained, and active employees would continue earning pension credit.
A settlement has been reached between the United Mine Workers of America and St. Louis-based Patriot Coal. It's been a long, hard-fought battle between the mine workers and Patriot Coal, as well as Patriot's parent company, Peabody Energy. UMWA president Cecil Roberts says the new terms and conditions of employment are "significant improvements" over what was previously ordered by a bankruptcy judge in May. Roberts says the new agreement now heads to the UMWA members for ratification. That will take place on Friday. The mine workers say that Peabody spun off Patriot Coal in an attempt to avoid paying union wages and health benefits to employees. The details of the new agreement won't be released until after the union votes on Friday.
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A bankrupt coal producer says it has imposed wage and benefit cuts affecting thousands of its workers, but that the pullbacks are less severe than those authorized by a judge.
But St. Louis-based Patriot Coal Corp. added Tuesday that it will keep retiree health care benefits unchanged for the next two months.
Patriot didn't detail the cuts it has adopted, more than a month after a bankruptcy judge empowered Patriot to abandon its collective-bargaining agreements.
Patriot says its continued bargaining with the United Mine Workers of America union has produced "substantial progress."
A spokesman for the union isn't talking publicly about Patriot's cuts imposed Monday, saying only that the union is still meeting with the company to make further improvements over the bankruptcy court's order.
ST. LOUIS (AP) - Prospects of a strike involving union workers at Patriot Coal Corp. are intensifying after a bankruptcy judge signed off on the company's push to abandon its labor agreement with the miners.
Bargaining between the United Mine Workers of America and St. Louis-based Patriot has taken a break, with the company empowered by the judge's May 29 ruling.
That decision allows Patriot to make deep cuts to benefits for thousands of retirees, while also altering its labor deal involving existing employees.
The union and the company say they are negotiating in good faith, though the union says what's on the table right now may be sent to the membership for consideration of whether a strike is in order.
Patriot counters that a walkout could force it to liquidate.
The United Mine Workers are unhappy with the decision of a bankruptcy court to side with Patriot Coal today. The ruling is the latest chapter in saga concerning benefits for retired miners. Patriot Coal is an independent company, but was created by spinning off part of Peabody Energy. Patriot argued they needed to cut retiree's benefits to stay in business. The Miners argued they had been promised benefits and should not have them taken away. The decision came on the last day the court could rule on the matter.
ST. LOUIS (AP) - A bankrupt St. Louis-based coal company's push to significantly cut thousands of retirees' health care and pension benefits is in the hands of a judge.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States has until May 29 to decide the matter that last week was argued before her by attorneys for Patriot Coal Corp. and the United Mine Workers of America union. It's not clear how soon any ruling may come.
Patriot's proposed benefits cuts have been the most contentious aspect of its bankruptcy case since the Peabody Energy Corp. spinoff filed for Chapter 11 protection last summer. The company says it would have to spend $1.6 billion to cover retirees' health care costs, and that if that didn't change it might risk liquidation.
The union considers the cuts immoral, drastic and unfair.
St Louis based Peabody Energy is holding its annual shareholders meeting in Wyoming to highlight the importance of the coal-rich Powder River Basin.
A delegation of more than a dozen retired and active mine workers from West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky and Florida are protesting.
One group critical of the company, Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, claims the company is trying to avoid hearing concerns in its hometown.
Meantime, thousands of protesting mine workers returned to St. Louis today as hearings begin in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on demands by Peabody's Patriot Coal Company. Miners accuse Peabody of eliminating health care for retired miners and for making cuts in pay, benefits and working conditions for current miners.
In a statement, Peabody Energy says "The union continues to grandstand when it knows that this matter will be decided in the courts. Patriot was highly successful following its launch more than five years ago with significant assets, low debt and a market value that more than quadrupled in less than a year. Peabody has lived up to its obligations and continues to do so. This is a matter between the union and Patriot Coal, and will be decided in the bankruptcy court."
Patriot Coal is offering the mine workers union a 35 percent stake in the reorganized company. The offer is aimed at winning support for benefit and wage cuts for thousands of active miners, retirees and beneficiaries. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Patriot sent the offer to the United Mine Workers of America on Wednesday.
The move comes less than three weeks before the Creve Coeur-based coal producer and the union are set to clash in a bankruptcy hearing after negotiating over the proposed cuts for months. Patriot says it must cut $150-million in operating expenses in order to survive. The company says they only place left to cut is wages and benefits.
Patriot spun off from St. Louis-based Peabody Energy in 2007, and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July of last year.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Thousands of people are protesting Patriot Coal Corp.'s bankruptcy reorganization plan in downtown Charleston, West Virginia.
The protesters gathered at the Charleston Civic Center for a rally organized by the United Mine Workers of America. They heard from speakers including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin before walking a short distance to protest outside Patriot Coal's West Virginia offices at Laidley Tower.
Last week, the House of Delegates called for bankrupt Patriot Coal to honor its pension and benefit commitments to some 23,000 retired miners and their dependents.
St. Louis-based Patriot is trying shed some of that $1.6 billion liability as it restructures. Patriot contends the move is needed to save 4,000 existing jobs.
Patriot Coal Corp. has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to modify collective bargaining agreements with the United Mine Workers of America, allowing the coal company to cut health care coverage for retired miners.
St. Louis-based Patriot said in the filing the action is necessary to save more than 4,000 jobs. Patriot also seeks to change wages, benefits and work rules for existing workers in an effort to make the company more competitive.
Union leaders have been anticipating the move for some time, holding protests in St. Louis last month that drew more than 1,000 people. UMWA President Cecil Roberts says the loss of benefits would cause financial ruin and threaten the health for thousands of retirees.