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UMWA ratifies Alpha and Contura deals

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World Coal,

Members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) have ratified new collective-bargaining agreements with Contura Energy and Alpha Natural Resources, according to a union press release. The new deal covers around 900 workers at mine operations in Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

Emerging from Alpha’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, Contura Energy is a new company formed by Alpha’s first-lien lenders that now owns the bulk of Alpha’s core assets.

The new deal was approved by 89% of those voting at the Cumberland and Emerald operations in Pennsylvania, the Power Mountain preparation plants in West Virginia and the McClure preparation plant in Virginia – all assets now held by Contura.

The deal was approved by 98% of those voting at Alpha Natural Resources preparation plants in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

“Contura Energy and Alpha had orders from the bankruptcy judge that eliminated the previous contract and stripped away any obligations for these companies to continue paying for pensions and retiree health care,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said.

“We were essentially starting from zero in negotiating these agreements. Because of the solidarity our members at these operations, we were able to preserve virtually every article of the previous agreement other than defined benefit pensions and retiree health care.”

As a result, neither Alpha Natural Resources nor Contura Energy will pay into the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan going forward, instead contributing a lump-sum payments of US$28.5 million to a voluntary employee benefit association that UMWA will manage until that funding runs out.”

“The loss of pension payments and company-paid retiree health care only adds to the critical need to pass pending legislation in Congress to ensure the retirees who mined the coal to energise our nation will get the retirement security America promised to them,” Roberts concluded.

“The funding in the VEBA will not last long. Time is quickly running out for these and thousands of other retirees who depend on these benefits.”

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