The United Mine Workers of America is talking to at least four other large coal companies in West Virginia on a new five-year contract, union officials said.

Jim Walter Resources (JWR), which has three deep mines in Tuscaloosa County, Ala., has signed the new pact, said UMWA President Cecil E. Roberts. The company has about 1,000 union miners.

Last month, the union reached a new agreement with Pittsburgh-based Consol Energy. About 3,200 of Consol’s 7,500 employees are union members.

Consol Energy is the lone member of the national Bituminous Coal Operators Association (BCOA).

The union wants other producers to sign “me too” contracts that mirror that agreement.

The BCOA is a “settlor” or party in various multi-employer funds, including those established by federal legislation in 1992 (the Coal Industry Retiree Health Benefits Act). The group also lobbies on retiree health and pension issues and mine health and safety.

“By agreeing to the wage and benefit improvements contained in the BCOA contract, JWR has recognized the BCOA contract as the blueprint for all UMWA-represented companies industry wide,” Roberts said in a press release.

The union is still talking to these other large union producers in the state: Peabody Coal operating as Eastern Associated Coal (Federal No. 2 mine in Blacksville), Magnum Coal based near Charleston, Pinn Oak in Wyoming County, and Bluestone in McDowell County.

Under federal labor law, the 2002 union contract with those operators will stay in effect until a new agreement is reached.

There are a number of smaller UMWA-represented mines in the state as well, Phil Smith, the union’s communications director, said Thursday.

Like the contract with Consol Energy, the JWR agreement calls for a 20-percent wage hike over the next five years.

Roberts has said the new BCOA agreement is the largest wage hike the union has negotiated since 1974.

Jim Walter miners will get an immediate $1,000 bonus. Its miners working at the top rate will be paid $24.42 per hour in the final year of the pact. The training pay for new miners will be $22.77 per hour in the last year.

E-mail Bill Byrd at bbyrd@timeswv.com.

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