CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Patriot Coal began making changes on Monday to wages and benefits received by working coal miners under the company's contract with the United Mine Workers.
The changes were made with the approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy A. Surratt-States, who ruled on May 29 that Patriot could throw out current contracts it negotiated with the UMW and cut health-care benefits for workers and retirees.
Patriot officials could not be reached Monday, and UMW leaders did not want to discuss the details of the changes being made.
Joe Carter, president of UMW District 17, based in Charleston, said Monday that Patriot was "supposed to change some benefits today for working miners."
Most Patriot miners are on vacation, Carter said. The vacation period will end in three weeks.
"After the vacation period is over," Carter said, "we will have an explanation meeting with the miners and discuss the changes. Sometime shortly thereafter, we will be taking a vote, from the working men and women at the mines."
The vote could lead to a strike, but negotiations between the UMW and Patriot are still going on.
"President Cecil Roberts is still meeting with Patriot. They are still discussing the various benefits. We are not exactly sure what the final package will look like," Carter said.