UMW reaches tentative labor agreement for Emerald and Cumberland mine employees

July 8, 2016

WAYNESBURG - The United Mine Workers union reached a tentative labor agreement with Contura Energy Inc., the new company being formed to purchase the core coal assets of bankrupt Alpha Natural Resources.

The union was negotiating with Alpha’s first lien lenders since about January, Ed Yankovich, UMW international District 2 vice president, said Friday.

The first lien lenders are forming Contura to purchase Alpha’s core coal assets as part of Alpha’s reorganization plan. That plan was approved Thursday by U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Va.

“Given the conditions of the coal industry in the United States and the fact the company is in bankruptcy, we’re pleased to have come to terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement we can present to the membership for ratification,” Yankovich said.

He would not comment on terms of the tentative agreement.

Active and laid-off union members at Alpha’s Emerald and Cumberland mines are meeting Tuesday to hear presentations on the proposed contract, Yankovich said. They will vote on the proposal Thursday.

Emerald Local 2258 will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Carmichaels American Legion Post. They will vote between 2 and 6 p.m. Thursday at the Local 2258 office at 108 W. George St., Carmichaels.

Meetings will be held at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday at Greene County Fairgrounds for members of Cumberland Local 2300. They will vote Thursday at the mine portals.

Alpha has about 1,000 employees covered by the UMW contract, according to the company’s bankruptcy documents. About 900 of those active and laid-off employees are at the two Greene County mining operations.

Alpha earlier sought and received bankruptcy court approval to terminate its UMW contract. However, the company never acted on the approval; workers at the Cumberland Mine continued to work under terms of the previous contract.

The Emerald Mine closed in November after it mined all its mineable reserves.

“We are pleased that a tentative settlement with the UMWA could be reached, pending an affirmative majority vote by the union-represented workforce,” Alpha said in statement released Friday.

“If approved, this fair and thoughtfully negotiated settlement would signify a major milestone in Alpha’s restructuring with regard to cost savings, while providing jobs and keeping production operations running.”

Under the reorganization plan approved by the court Thursday, Alpha will sell its core coal assets to Contura.

Those assets include the Cumberland and Emerald mine properties; coal reserves for its proposed Foundation Mine, also in Greene County; two Powder River Basin mine complexes in Wyoming and the Nicholas, McClure; and Toms Creek mine complexes in W.Va. and Va.

Alpha, itself, will continue to operate its remaining mines as a privately held company to provide revenue to satisfy the company’s environmental obligations.

The reorganization plan, approved by the court Thursday, will become effective upon Alpha’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which is expected in late July.

Bob Niedbala worked as a general assignment reporter for the newspaper for 27 years in the Greene County bureau. He received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

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