CAMERON - Despite a $3.5 billion takeover by Murray Energy Corp., Consol Energy employees and retirees will operate under the same terms until 2016, according to officials with the United Mine Workers of America.
"Everything stays the same until Dec. 31, 2015," said Mike Caputo, vice president for UMWA District 31, which covers northern West Virginia and Ohio. "That is when the current contract expires."
"There is no reason to believe it will be more difficult to negotiate with a new company," Caputo added, noting that "terms and conditions" of any new contract can be challenging.
Murray now operates the Century Mine near Beallsville and the Powhatan No. 6 mine near Powhatan Point. He also runs several mines throughout Appalachia.
Among Murray's operations, only workers at the Powhatan No. 6 mine have union representation.
Hourly employees at both the Shoemaker and McElroy mines are represented by the union.
"Murray Energy Corp. will honor all contracts and conditions therein with the UMWA, now and in the future," said Robert E. Murray, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Murray Energy Corp.
Rick Altman, president of UMWA Local 1638, representing about 800 workers the McElroy Mine, said he is "open-minded" about Murray Energy ownership.
"We do a good job, and we mine good coal. We will go to work, no matter who owns the mine," he said. "We don't want to pass any judgment before we start."
Altman said that pensions and benefits for retirees are part of the union contract negotiations, so there can be no guarantee following Dec. 31, 2015. However, Caputo and Altman joined UMWA International President Cecil Roberts in emphasizing the strength of the current contract.
"Our collective bargaining agreement does not go away with this transaction, and our members remain covered by its provisions. There will be no changes in pay, benefits, insurance, schedules, working conditions, safety provisions, grievance procedures or any other language in the contract," said Roberts.
Roberts said the union represents about 2,800 current workers at the five West Virginia mines sold from Consol to Murray, along with roughly 23,000 "retirees, dependents and surviving spouses."
"I want to emphasize to the retirees from these mines that the contract that protects their pensions and health care remains in force - and there will be no changes to their benefits as a result of this transaction," Roberts said.
"Consol Energy has been around, in one form or another, for about 150 years," Caputo added. "This will certainly be a change for West Virginia, particularly northern West Virginia."