The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) has reached “prospective collective bargaining agreements in principal” with both Blackhawk Mining and the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund (VCLF), the expected purchasers of the assets of Patriot Coal, the union announced yesterday.
As reported, Patriot’s proposed assets sales to Blackhawk and VCLF, which lie at the heart of the company’s reorganization plan, are both conditioned on Patriot either agreeing with the union on new labor accords, or successfully rejecting the existing labor and pension contracts and unilaterally imposing new work conditions.
As also reported, the company had already filed a motion seeking court approval of its rejection of its labor and pension agreements. A hearing began on Sept. 1, but the bankruptcy court judge overseeing the case in Richmond, Va., delayed the hearing for two days, sending the parties back to the negotiating table.
The union did not release any details of the new pact.
In a statement, UMWA president Cecil Roberts said, “There is still more work to do on the actual language of these prospective agreements, and there are several more legal hurdles that must be resolved in bankruptcy court before we would be able to take these prospective agreements to our membership for ratification. Should we clear those hurdles and move forward with ratification, no details of these prospective agreements will be publicly released prior to our members’ ratification vote.”
Roberts added, “Because there are still details to be worked out and the legal process needs to be finished, it is not yet clear when that vote will be.”
It is unclear whether the new deal also resolves outstanding issues with respect to the company’s pension obligations, or whether litigation aimed at the company’s rejection of those obligations will have to continue. – Alan Zimmerman