Patriot Coal has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to modify collective bargaining agreements with the United Mine Workers of America that will allow the company to cut health care coverage for retired miners.
The St. Louis-based company also sought to change wages, benefits and work rules for current workers to make Patriot more competitive, saying in a filing Thursday that the actions are necessary to save more than 4,000 jobs.
Patriot filed for bankruptcy protection in July, citing exceptionally weak coal markets, rising costs and "unsustainable legacy liabilities." The company said that coal markets have only worsened since the filing.
"Without the cost relief we are seeking, all of these jobs will be lost and it will no longer be possible to provide health care for more than 23,000 employees, retirees and their dependents," Patriot President and CEO Bennett K. Hatfield said in a statement. "Our labor and retiree benefit costs have risen to levels that simply cannot be sustained given the challenges facing the company and our industry."
Separately, Patriot has filed suit against its former parent company, Peabody Energy, also of St. Louis, saying that it wants to ensure that Peabody doesn't try to use Patriot's bankruptcy "to escape Peabody's own health care obligations to certain retirees."