TRIANGLE, Va. — Describing it as a tough vote for the members of the United Mine Workers Union, UMWA President Cecil Roberts announced Friday night the rank-and-file that work at Murray Energy mines in northern West Virginia and Ohio approved a new five-year deal with the company.

Friday’s vote was 60.3 percent in favor of the contract, Roberts said.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts says union members took a courageous vote in approving the contract with Murray Energy.UMWA President Cecil Roberts says union members took a courageous vote in approving the contract with Murray Energy.

“The coal industry is in a depression and more than 50 companies have filed for bankruptcy in the last few years. Thousands have been laid off. The pressures on those who are still working are tremendous and growing. But despite all that, our members took a courageous stand by voting to try to keep their company operating while maintaining the best wages, benefits and working conditions in the American coal industry,” Roberts said in a statement released by the union.

Murray Energy President Bob Murray said earlier this week on MetroNews “Talkline” approval of the contract was one of four steps he needed to keep the mining operations open. Murray had previously issued WARN notices for all of the miners just in case circumstances didn’t work out.

There are no pay raises in the contract but it does include a reopener on wages in three years. Health care benefits remain basically the same for active workers and retirees with what the union calls slight increases in out-of-pocket costs. Days off have been reduced in the first few years of the contract but rebuild toward the end of the five years. Murray Energy will stay part of the 1974 pension plan, the union said.

The other parts of Murray’s four-part plan include refinancing of a subsidiary, working with electricity utilities on contract pricing and language and consulting with lenders about existing debt.

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