UMWA, Peabody Energy announce retiree benefits agreement

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The UMWA and Peabody Energy announced an agreement Monday that will provide for a payment by Peabody of up to $75 million over the next 10 months to help provide health care benefits for retirees affected by the Patriot Coal bankruptcy of 2012-2013.

Peabody has agreed to pay $7.5 million per month beginning in January into a Voluntary Employees Beneficial Association established in 2013 to administer retirees’ health care benefits.

The payments will continue until Oct. 2016, unless legislation passes sooner in Congress that would put those retirees’ health care under the umbrella of the UMWA Health and Retirement Funds.

“I am pleased that we have been able to reach this agreement,” said UMWA President Cecil Roberts. “The second bankruptcy of Patriot Coal in 2015 and the breakup of that company into separate entities put the initial agreement providing funding for the VEBA in jeopardy. With this new agreement, we have been able to provide a measure of security for these retirees, their dependents and widows.”

Roberts pointed out that the agreement, while effective for now, is not a long-term solution.

“These retirees did everything asked of them, and now through no fault of their own find their health care benefits under threat,” Roberts said. “This agreement will help, but is by no means a permanent fix to this problem.”

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