MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Members of the United Mine Workers of America employed by bankrupt Murray Energy have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement. Director of Communications and Governmental Affairs Phil Smith says the company’s debtors, who will become the owners of the new company that emerges from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, have agreed to accept the terms and conditions of the new contract.
“They’re going to able to keep their jobs, they’re going to be able to maintain their job classifications, they’re going to get hired tight back into the jobs they have now,”Smith said,”That was one of the main things we wanted to do.”
“Ratification of this agreement means that all our members who are currently working at Murray Energy will be employed by the new company when it takes over, with no loss of seniority or job classification,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “Without the vital protection of a contract in place, there was no guarantee that they would be able to keep their jobs. But now their job rights have been protected.”
Because of the passage of the Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019, more than 12,000 current and eligible future retirees, their dependents and widows will still receive those earned benefits. Current bankruptcy laws allow Murray Energy and its successor to be relieved of any obligation to pay for retiree health care and defined benefit pensions.
Smith says the agreement include a $1 per hour increase over the five-year deal and other important benefits.
“Significant cuts to out-of-pocket costs for medical and hospital care for our members and their families,”Smith said,”There are significant improvements in 401k contributions the company will be making.”
Smith expects stability over the life of the deal, but acknowledges the company will likely evolve as the energy industry changes.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen to the coal industry between now and then, we don’t know how energy is going to be generated between now and then.” Smith said. “We’re fighting everyday in Washington D.C. to make sure as much as possible coal is going to be part of the energy mix well into the future.”
“I commend our membership at Murray Energy for their courageous vote, and their willingness to work through the abnormal circumstances we had to contend with to even hold this ratification vote in the first place,” Roberts said. “We were able to hold the vote at the mines in a safe and healthy manner, which was our first priority in these difficult times.”
Murray Energy operates The Harrison County Coal Company in Monongah, The Marion County Coal Company in Fairview, The Monongalia County Coal Company in Blacksville and the Dents Run Water Treatment Plant in Mannington.