Judge sides with bankrupt Patriot in benefits cuts

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by JIM SUHR

AP

Posted on May 29, 2013 at 6:02 PM

 ST. LOUIS (AP) -- A bankrupt coal producer has a judge’s go-ahead to significantly cut health care and pension benefits to thousands of workers and retirees in hopes of regaining its financial footing.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States on Wednesday approved of Patriot Coal’s request to impose wage and benefit cuts by throwing out its collective-bargaining agreements with the United Mine Workers of America.

St. Louis-based Patriot sought bankruptcy protection last summer to address labor obligations it said have grown unsustainable. The Peabody Energy Corp. spinoff has said it would have to spend $1.6 billion to cover the health care costs, putting it at risk of liquidation.

The union had called the proposed cuts immoral and unfair. The union didn’t return a message seeking comment Wednesday.

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