CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Details of a proposed contract between the United Mine Workers of America and Patriot Coal include a health-care plan "designed to more closely match the plan currently available to non-union employees."
The contract agreement, which was announced by the UMW and Patriot Coal on Monday, was placed on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri website on Wednesday.
UMW spokesman Phil Smith said Wednesday that the proposed contract represents a considerable improvement over conditions implemented by Patriot on July 1.
"But all of this depends on the contract being ratified. If they don't get an agreement with us, Patriot Coal will liquidate," Smith said. Patriot's union miners, including about 1,800 in West Virginia, will vote on whether to approve the contract on Friday.
The proposed contract includes these wage provisions, according to documents, and the text of the contract, posted on the U.S. Bankruptcy Court website:
* Current wage rates will be reduced to those in effect on June 1, 2012, which will basically be a loss of $1 an hour.
* Wages will increase by 50 cents an hour on New Year's Day for the four years between 2015 and 2018.
* "Differential payments" that increased wages for union miners working afternoon and night shifts will be eliminated.
* Overtime wages will be paid after 40 hours of work per week at 1.5 times the regular wages. "Premium overtime" pay will be eliminated, which means miners working on holidays will receive only 1.5 times their regular wages, not more.
* In 2016, the company and union may negotiate "wage adjustments" for 2017 and 2018, based on "current market conditions," for new wage increases up to 10 percent.
The average starting wage for a union coal miner is more than $70,000, Smith said, and wages can rise above $100,000 with overtime and work experience.
Smith said, "On July 1, Patriot implemented pay cuts up to $7.50 an hour. We restored miners' pay back up to the levels they were as of June 1, 2012. On Jan. 1 of this year, under the previous agreement with Patriot, everybody got a pay increase of $1 an hour. That $1 was rolled back. That is all we lost [in wages]."
The new agreement, Smith said, will be retroactive to July 1. "So if people had their wages reduced over the past six weeks, they will get a retroactive check that raises them back up."
Regarding health-care benefits in the proposed contract:
* UMW workers will not have to pay health-care premiums. They will also have lower out-of-pocket maximums than Patriot's non-union workers.
* Patriot will continue to provide current life, accidental death and dismemberment benefits, as well as eye and dental care, to its union miners. Patriot will also provide lifetime health care for UMW employees, and/or their surviving spouses, who become totally disabled or die from mine accidents.
* Spouses of union employees who have their own health-care coverage must use that as their primary coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2014.
* Patriot will contribute 3 percent of a miner's gross wages to a 401(k), or similar plan, in lieu of continued retiree health-care benefits.
"This represents a significant improvement over what the judge recommended on May 29 and what Patriot implemented on July 1," Smith said.
"The judge allowed Patriot to implement health insurance premiums. For family coverage, that would have been up to $2,500 a year in premiums. We completely eliminated those. The judge also allowed Patriot to eliminate vision, dental, life and accidental death insurance. We restored all of those benefits."