The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

August 20, 2013

Judge OKs Patriot Coal, miners’ union deal

St. Louis — Patriot Coal Corp. got a bankruptcy judge’s go-ahead Tuesday to enter into a new labor agreement with the nation’s biggest miners’ union, ending a long, acrimonious dispute the company had worried would push into liquidation.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States granted St. Louis-based Patriot’s request to put in place the collective bargaining deal ratified by some 85 percent of United Mine Workers of America members who cast ballots on the proposal last Friday. Some 1,800 current or laid-off Patriot workers in West Virginia and Kentucky were eligible to vote.

The settlement restores most wage cuts Patriot had sought as part of its efforts to emerge from bankruptcy protection. Pension benefits for thousands of retirees also will be maintained, and active employees will continue earning pension credit as part of the deal Patriot said will save $130 million a year over the next several years.

Cecil Roberts, the union’s national president, celebrated Tuesday’s development involving the settlement he said “we worked long and hard to reach with Patriot Coal.” Those talks intensified after July 1, when Patriot enacted cuts Surratt-States ruled in May the company could impose in abandoning its collective-bargaining agreements with the union.

“The terms and conditions of this settlement are a significant improvement over the company’s original proposals, while still giving Patriot the stability and certainty it needs to move forward,” Roberts added in a statement. “There is still a long way to go, however, before retired mine workers receive all of the health care benefits they earned during their years in the mines.”

Patriot offered no new comment, directing reporters instead to its statement reacting to last week’s ratification vote on the deal it said then “provides labor stability and ensures cost savings essential to Patriot’s plan of reorganization.” Bennett Hatfield, Patriot’s president and chief executive, said Patriot appears on track to emerge from bankruptcy by the end of this year.

During an April hearing, the union, through its lawyer, threatened to strike if Surratt-States’ ruling didn’t go its way. Patriot countered 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 in July of last year, saying it would have to spend an unsustainable $1.6 billion to cover the health care costs, putting it at risk of folding.

 

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • Sunflower 1 Unique sunflower

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • How much will annexation cost?

    City of Beckley officials say annexation would provide many benefits to outlying residents, but exactly how much would annexation cost?

    July 28, 2014

  • Not in my backyard: U.S. sending fossil fuel abroad

    As the Obama administration weans the U.S. off dirty fuels blamed for global warming, energy companies have been sending more of America’s unwanted energy leftovers to other parts of the world where they could create even more pollution.

    July 28, 2014

  • Greenbrier PSD officials worried about State Fair tunnel project

    Plans to raise a section of U.S. 219 and construct a tunnel underneath for the passage of State Fair pedestrians provided a hot topic for discussion at Friday’s meeting of the Greenbrier Public Service District No. 1 board.

    July 28, 2014

  • Beckley man places second in three-day world horseshoe tourney in Buffalo, N.Y.

    One Beckley man knows a thing or two about pitching a horseshoe. He’s been throwing for decades and he’s been to a handful of world tournaments. Recently he placed second in the 2014 World Horseshoe Pitching Tournament.

    July 28, 2014

  • saints garb new Saintly garb

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • tunnel flow Tunnel reopens after fire

    Traffic on Interstate 77 was still backed up about 14 miles in Bland County, Va., Saturday evening, but the Virginia Department of Transportation reported at about 6 p.m. that both northbound lanes of I-77 through East River Mountain were open to traffic.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • tunnel firefighters Bluefield firefighters first ones on the scene

    Lights in the southern end of the tunnel illuminate an odd design beside the catwalk near the left lane of the northbound tube of the East River Mountain Tunnel that transports I-77 from Virginia into West Virginia. Two firefighters who made the initial assault through the total darkness of the soot and smoke-filled tunnel left those marks as they slid their arms along the catwalk wall on their journey back to the light.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • Internet service providers talk shop at Broadband Summit

    Call it the Internet 101.

    West Virginia’s Internet service providers, with the help of Mike Holstine, explained how end-users in homes and businesses get the Internet, how and why they use it and the benefits of having high-speed Internet for everybody. 

     

    July 27, 2014

  • tunnel Fire closes I-77 for hours

    East River Mountain Tunnel was engulfed in a cloud of black smoke Friday as a result of a tractor-trailer fire inside the tunnel that ignited just after 3 p.m.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo