Accord ends coal strike

Agreement affects two mines in Pa.

April 14, 2007|By Allison Connolly | Allison Connolly,Sun reporter

Linthicum Heights-based Foundation Coal Holdings Inc. and its affiliates have struck a deal with the United Mine Workers of America, ending a weeklong strike at mines in Pennsylvania.

An agreement also was reached with workers at its Wabash mine in Keensburg, Ill., which Foundation Coal shuttered April 4 after the union announced that workers there and at the two Pennsylvania mines would strike.

Foundation Coal said it was no longer financially feasible to keep the Wabash mine open, after it posted a $26 million loss last year. The mine suffers from aging infrastructure and soft market conditions, and Foundation Coal had been looking for concessions from the union to keep the mine open, with the promise of capital investment.

Under the agreement, the 236 hourly workers at Wabash would receive severance packages that include pay and retiree health benefits. Also, workers who wish to relocate would be guaranteed jobs at the Cumberland or Emerald mines. About 50 salaried workers would receive bonuses to stay on through the shutdown.

Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 workers at the Cumberland and Emerald mines near Waynesburg, Pa. will return to work today, the UMW said in a statement.

Neither the union nor the company returned calls seeking comment.

"We sincerely wish that we could have concluded this agreement last week before the strike began," UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said in the statement. "But we are gratified that we have been able to reach this agreement after just a short work stoppage."

The union wanted the company to extend its national contract, known as the 2007 National Bituminous Coal Wage Agreement, to the three mines in question. However, the company said the three mines should have separate agreements because they have unique cost conditions.

The union declined to release specifics about the new agreement yesterday, before workers were briefed.

Roberts said in the statement that the union was able to "maintain the national contract pattern" and "negotiated improvements in the national agreement in several areas."

Foundation Coal, the nation's fourth-largest coal producer with 14 mines in Illinois, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming, primarily supplies coal to utility companies for generating electricity.

Foundation Coal's stock closed up 59 cents yesterday at $38.55 a share.

allison.connolly@baltsun.com

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