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Interim agreement in coal.

An interim agreement was reached between the four-member Independent Bituminous Coal Bargaining Alliance and the United Mine Workers for about 7,500 miners in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The Alliance was formed before the 1993 national bituminous coal contract talks began to forge a cooperative approach in bargaining with the union. It represents Drummond Co., Inc., Jim Walter Resources, Inc., U.S. Steel Mining Co., and Westmoreland Coal Co., and negotiates separately from the Bituminous Coal Operators Association, the bargaining agent for most of the larger companies in the industry. (The current Bituminous Coal Operators Association agreement, known as the National Coal Wage Agreement, expired February 1, 1993, and currently is being renegotiated.)

The Alliance pact features enhanced job security, a switch to managed health care plans, and a cooperative approach tied to worker empowerment. It requires that all job openings at any existing, new, or newly acquired nonsignatory coal operations be filled by laid-off United Mine Workers-represented employees of the company and, in most cases, requires that newly started or newly acquired operations be treated as either a relocation of bargaining unit work, or an accretion to bargaining unit work, with the contract automatically applying to these operations.

The contract maintains the current level of health care benefits through jointly established networks of health care providers, with a 10-percent deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses of $1,000 for family coverage for in-network health care services and $1,500 for out-of-network, counseling and case management procedures for individuals or families whose medical expenses exceed $1,000 for an individual or $3,000 for a family in any 6-month period, and a prescription drug program that generally requires the purchase of generic equivalents.

It also establishes a "Labor-Management Positive Change Process" to empower employees, management, and the union to improve labor-management relations and communications, effectiveness of mining operations, safety, and job security.

Other terms allow for mutual agreement to modify the contract and successor contracts for "special local circumstances," such as to justify opening new mines or extending the working life of current mining operations; to adopt gainsharing based on operating results, which potentially could provide additional earnings of up to 20 percent of an employee's hourly wage rate; and to establish alternate work schedules, where appropriate, which would lead to increased employment without mandatory overtime.

The accord is effective for 1 year or until the union settles on a new agreement with the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. At the expiration of the pact, each Independent Bituminous Coal Bargaining Alliance-member company will be free to negotiate a new contract or adopt the terms of any newly negotiated Bituminous Coal Operators Alliance contract. Notwithstanding the choice taken, the company, at its discretion, can elect to include the managed health care provision in a subsequent agreement, and the union, at its discretion, can elect to include the job security provision in the subsequent agreement.
COPYRIGHT 1993 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Title Annotation:Independent Bituminous Coal Bargaining Alliance and United Mine Workers
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:483
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