Westmoreland Coal Company – UMWA Objects to Valued Employee Program, Accuses Debtors of Discriminating Against “Life Blood” of Workforce

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December 14, 2018 – The United Mine Workers of America (“UMWA”) objected to the Debtors’ proposed “Valued Employee Program” [Docket No. 779]. 
The objection states, “The retention program handsomely rewards management and supervisory personnel. Debtors admit that it covers only 14% of total employees, and those who are covered are only non-bargaining unit employees, while UMWA employees represent nearly a quarter of the Debtors’ workforce. The retention program includes executives and management employees who do not even work at the mines. A plan focused primarily on management employees ignores the operational side of running the mines, and is not reasonably related to Debtors’ purported goal of keeping its workforce intact pending the contemplated sale. Further, Debtors’ plan to reward only certain employees undermines the claimed reasonableness of the program…. the cost of the plan is not reasonable.
The plan is unfair and discriminatory because it was explicitly designed to exclude bargaining unit employees, focusing on management, supervisors, and superintendents, and other operations workers. The Debtors discriminate against the life blood of a quarter of its workforce by compensating its non-bargaining unit employees, while including no plan to retain the bargaining unit employees who run the mines. The Debtors did not exercise due diligence. No evidence is provided regarding how the Debtors decided that over 400 UMWA bargaining unit employees who report to work each day at these mines were not critical to operations. Debtors repeatedly state that senior management made this determination, but no evidence is provided to the Court regarding what criteria were applied and why bargaining unit employees did not meet these criteria.”

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