The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

July 3, 2013

Patriot imposes benefit, wage cuts

Coal company says cuts less severe than they could have been

ST. LOUIS — A bankrupt coal producer said Tuesday that it imposed less severe wage and benefit cuts on its miners than it could have under a court ruling and that it will keep retired workers’ health plans unchanged for the next two months while it continues negotiating with the union.

Patriot Coal Corp. did not detail the cuts it put in place Monday, the first day they could take effect under U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States’ May 29 ruling empowering the St. Louis-based company to abandon its collective-bargaining agreements with the nation’s biggest miners’ union.

Patriot, in a statement, said it has continued bargaining with the United Mine Workers of America — the union that vigorously opposed the planned cuts Surratt-States ultimately approved — and that negotiations “have resulted in substantial progress toward a consensual resolution.”

“Patriot and the UMWA are continuing to meet in a diligent effort to resolve the outstanding differences and reach a consensual agreement,” the company said, adding that both sides hope to have a final resolution for the union’s members to consider by the end of this month.

Phil Smith, a spokesman for the union, declined to publicly discuss Monday’s cuts that Patriot termed “significantly improved” from what the court allowed, saying only that “we are continuing to meet with Patriot to make further improvements over the judge’s order.”

During an April hearing, the union, through its lawyer, threatened to strike if Surratt-States’ ruling didn’t go its way, but it wasn’t clear Tuesday to what extent a walkout remained an option. Patriot has warned that a strike “would put the company on a path to liquidation, which is the worst possible outcome for UMWA employees and retirees.”

Patriot’s proposed cuts have been the most contentious aspect since the Peabody Energy Corp. spinoff filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a year ago, saying it would have to spend an unsustainable $1.6 billion to cover the health care costs, putting it at risk of folding.

In her 102-page ruling, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States concluded that Patriot’s actions were legal, and perhaps even unavoidable.

While looking to cease pension contributions, Patriot has proposed creating a trust with up to $300 million from future profit-sharing to fund some level of health benefits. Patriot also would give the union a 35 percent equity stake in the company once it emerges from bankruptcy.    

In Patriot’s case, the company’s chief executive, Ben Hatfield, has called the moves necessary for the coal company’s survival and the preservation of more than 4,000 jobs, the bulk of them in Kentucky and West Virginia.  

Union leaders contend that Patriot was saddled with unsustainable pension and long-term health care obligations when Peabody jettisoned it as a separate company in 2007, essentially setting it up to fail. Peabody disputes that.

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • Pierpont, WVU-Parkersburg enter transfer agreement

    West Virginia University at Parkersburg has signed a transfer agreement with Pierpont Community & Technical College.

    July 30, 2014

  • Repairs set for I-77 tunnel

    Some lanes of an Interstate 77 tunnel along the Virginia-West Virginia border where a truck fire occurred are being rerouted for repairs.

    July 29, 2014

  • Veterans crisis center coming to Clarksburg

    The long delays for veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals have prompted The American Legion to plan a short-term crisis center in Clarksburg.

    July 29, 2014

  • Weekend tornado confirmed in West Virginia

    The National Weather Service has confirmed a tornado touched down in Pleasants and Ritchie counties over the weekend.

    July 29, 2014

  • Rahal: Fund VA reform ‘for our veterans’

     On the cusp of Congress’s lengthy summer break, factions sparring over legislation to strengthen health care and funding reforms for the Department of Veterans Affairs may have reached a compromise.
    Although final details are still in the works, the top two negotiators, Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., released a joint statement that said they had “made significant progress toward and agreement on legislation to make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals.”

    July 29, 2014

  • Attorney general reaches $950,000 settlement with three financial groups

    West Virginia’s attorney general has reached a $950,000 settlement with three companies over allegations of antitrust law violations.

    July 28, 2014

  • Woman convicted in teen’s slaying moved

    A Monongalia County teenager has been transferred to a state prison to complete her sentence for the slaying of another teenager.
    The Lakin Correctional Center near Point Pleasant said Friday Rachel Shoaf has been booked at the Division of Corrections prison. Shoaf turned 18 last month and had been held in a juvenile facility.

    July 26, 2014

  • Board suspends clinic operator’s license

    A West Virginia board Friday suspended the license of the operator of a pain management clinic where investigators found syringes were being reused. It was the second disciplinary action involving the doctor’s license within a decade.

    July 26, 2014

  • Candidates: Leave global warming debate to scientists

    Two West Virginia congressional hopefuls said during their first candidate forum matchup Thursday that the global warming debate is better left to scientists.
    Democrat Nick Casey and Republican Alex Mooney added that other countries should step up in reducing carbon emissions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Lawsuit filed over Dirty Girl Mud Run

    A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of a run that was canceled in Charleston in which participants were told they wouldn’t be issued refunds.

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads