Cumberland and Emerald are two of the largest deep mines in the eastern U.S. coalfields, producing nearly 11 million tons combined in 2010. In the first quarter of 2011, their production was down somewhat, with Cumberland’s output at 1.1 million tons and Emerald at 881,819 tons, according to Mine Safety and Health Administration figures.
With the exception of “a few local issues,” Abingdon, Va.-based Alpha agreed to substantially the same contract as the deal with BCOA, whose only member is CONSOL Energy, said UMWA President Cecil Roberts. “That means miners’ pay will be increased by $1 per hour immediately. That means their health care will be preserved with no cuts or added costs. That means that health care and pensions for current and future retirees is secured.”
Terms of the BCOA pact provide miners with a $6/hour wage hike over the contract’s duration—the largest in the history of the nation’s oldest industrial union. Miners got a $1/hour increase on July 1, and will get another on January 1, 2012. Then, wages rise by an additional $1/hour on January 1 of each succeeding year. Pension contributions of $5.50/hour for every hour a miner works also were retained.
However, the UMWA also acceded to a BCOA demand that ends company-funded pensions for new employees, starting with workers hired after January 1, 2012. Beginning next year, new UMWA miners will be under a 401(k) plan. The BCOA agreed to initially contribute $1/hour to an individual miner’s 401(k), increasing to $1.50/hour during the contract period.
Also under the UMWA/Alpha accord, the company agreed that if it reopened the idled Wabash underground mine near Keensburg in Wabash County, Ill., before the end of 2013, the union would remain the collective bargaining representative for the miners there, and the newly signed contract would be in effect.
Originally opened several decades ago by former Amax Coal Co., Wabash was a Foundation Coal asset at the time Alpha acquired Foundation on July 31, 2009. At one time, Wabash was one of the largest deep mines in the high-sulfur Illinois Basin. It closed several years ago.
UMWA spokesman Phil Smith said the union continues to negotiate with several other coal companies that employ some 6,000 union miners, including Patriot Coal, Drummond, Jim Walters and Cliffs Natural Resources. Those companies are bound only by pension provisions of the BCOA contract. The union must bargain with them individually on wages and other benefits.