CHARLESTON, W.Va.–Negotiations continued Thursday between the United Mine Workers Union and Patriot Coal one day after a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge ruled Patriot could change its collective bargaining agreement with the union and benefits for retired miners.
U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller called the judge’s ruling “a nice big gift” for the coal companies when he spoke with MetroNews Thursday.
Rockefeller said he agrees with the UMWA that Patriot was created by Peabody Coal in 2007 “for the purpose of taking away health care benefits and for the purpose of taking away pensions from miners who had been promised them,” Rockefeller said. “And from my point of view, from miners who were legally owed them.”
Patriot President and CEO Ben Hatfield said Wednesday for the coming days the company plans to operate under its current UMWA contracts.
“Patriot management will continue diligent negotiations with the UMWA leadership to address their concerns about our court-approved proposals,” Hatfield said.
He added Patriot hopes for a resolution with the union that is “the best possible outcome for all parties.”
“It (Patriot Coal) was made for the purpose of taking away health care benefits and for the purpose of taking away pensions from miners who had been promised them,” U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller.
Sen. Rockefeller says he “detests” the judge’s decision.
“It was the wrong decision,” he said.
Patriot says it wants to implement a plan that will get the company out of bankruptcy and save 4,000 jobs. The UMWA says the retiree benefits part of the decision will impact more than 22,000 retirees, their surviving spouses and dependents. The union says many of the retirees never worked for Patriot.