Westmoreland Coal Co. faces protests over cuts to retirees’ benefits

As Westmoreland Coal Co. tries to emerge from chapter, union members from certainly one of its mines are picketing on the firm’s headquarters in Englewood to protest efforts to reduce retirees’ medical insurance and pensions.

Sarah Myers, an worker at Westmoreland’s mine in Kemmerer in southwest Wyoming, stated Thursday the union needs to maintain staff’ issues entrance and middle because the chapter case proceeds.

“We’re just trying to get our voice out there. We’re just trying to represent ourselves,” Myers stated.

Myers wasn’t in Englewood on Thursday, however she stated miners from Kemmerer are taking turns picketing Westmoreland’s headquarters every week, Monday by Friday.

The firm didn’t return a request for a remark Thursday afternoon. No one answered the overall cellphone quantity on the firm’s headquarters.

Colorado-based Westmoreland, the nation’s sixth-largest coal-mining enterprise with 19 mines in six states and Canada, introduced in October that it had filed for Chapter 11 chapter. It entered right into a restructuring settlement with lenders within the face of $1.4 billion in debt.

Westmoreland employs practically 3,000 individuals throughout its operations, which embody mines in Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico and North Dakota, and a number of other subsidiaries. It has no mines in Colorado.

An Oct. 23 letter obtained by The Denver Post particulars Westmoreland’s proposed adjustments to the corporate’s agreements with the United Mine Workers of America. The proposals embody freezing retirees’ pensions and eliminating their medical benefits.

The firm has additionally proposed abolishing union contracts if the mines are offered. Westmoreland has stated in court docket filings that potential consumers of its operations gained’t make affords if it means taking over the pension and medical prices.

Richard Morgan, the UMWA’s district consultant, stated about 2,500 retirees, together with union members in Trinidad, Raton, N.M., and Beulah, N.D., could be affected by the corporate’s proposals. As a part of the chapter proceedings, Westmoreland and the union are supposed to renegotiate the contracts, with talks scheduled to wrap up Feb. 13.

“The retirees’ medical benefits are the main sticking point,” Morgan stated.

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