CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Patriot Coal Corp. acknowledged Tuesday that it had cut workers' wages and benefits, but said those cuts were less than they could have been, and said recent discussions with the United Mine Workers of America union have already "resulted in substantial progress toward a consensual resolution.
"On July 1, 2013, Patriot exercised the authority granted to it by the bankruptcy court to implement changes to wages, benefits and active employee healthcare, but chose to implement terms that are significantly improved from those approved by the court," the company said in a statement Tuesday.
"Patriot and the UMWA are continuing to meet in a diligent effort to resolve the outstanding differences and reach a consensual agreement," according to the statement."
Neither Patriot nor the UMWA is discussing the details of their ongoing negotiations.
The St. Louis-based coal company's statement added that "Patriot and the UMWA have reached an agreement through which retiree healthcare will continue to be provided at current benefit levels through July and August.
"Negotiations are expected to continue over the coming weeks. The parties are targeting completion of a final resolution to be presented to UMWA members by the end of July," according to the statement released by Andrew E. Squire, a spokesman for Joele Frank, a New York City-based communications firm.
UMWA members are likely to vote on whether to approve the new contract arrangements in the near future.
Today, Patriot is also covering many benefits for 23,000 retirees and their dependents. After Patriot was created in 2007, the new company acquired all the union mines operated by Peabody Energy and Arch Coal east of the Mississippi.
Many health and retirement benefits Peabody and Arch promised to their retired coal miners shifted to Patriot.
The company said those costs were a major factor forcing Patriot Coal to file for bankruptcy protection in July 2012.
The changes Patriot made to its existing contract with the union on Monday were done with approval from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy A. Surratt-States. On May 29, Surratt-States ruled Patriot could throw out its current contracts with the UMW and also cut health-care benefits for workers and retirees.Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.