Patriot Coal, which last month won bankruptcy court permission to cut costs, broke off negotiations with its union on how to reduce pensions and benefits to 13,000 unionized workers and retirees.
Negotiators from Patriot walked out Tuesday on talks with the United Mine Workers of America, the union said in a statement Wednesday. The two sides were $30 million to $35 million apart on an agreement that would determine how retirees are treated, the UMWA said.
Without a deal, Patriot will go ahead with a plan approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States in St. Louis in May, the union said.
"The company now says it will implement the terms and conditions approved by the judge, effective July 1," UMWA President Cecil Roberts said in the statement. "I can only conclude at this point that there is no end to the depths of sacrifices our members and retirees are expected to make."
Surratt-States approved Patriot's request to reduce costs following a weeklong hearing which drew protests by union members and retirees outside the courthouse. A notice that the union would appeal the ruling was filed Monday.
Michael Freitag, a Patriot spokesman, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment on the union's statement.
Patriot has said that reducing costs will allow it to save more than 4,000 jobs and become viable amid difficult times for coal companies. The company said it must cut retiree benefits now or run out of money by 2014.
Patriot filed for bankruptcy in July, citing falling demand for coal and obligations to pay $1.6 billion in lifetime health care for retirees. At the time, St. Louis-based Patriot had already been negotiating with the UMWA for four months. Since the Chapter 11 filing, the company said it has submitted four new proposals, each with more concessions.