IN the months ahead, Patriot Coal will go in one of two directions:
Either the company will obtain the significant cost reductions it needs to survive, or it will face the very likely possibility of liquidation.
That would result in the loss of thousands of good jobs and have a devastating economic impact for our communities and the families of our employees and retirees.
Much has been said and written about Patriot's recent proposal to employees and retirees represented by the United Mine Workers of America, including numerous unfounded allegations, inflammatory personal attacks and factual inaccuracies.
The truth is that the company's proposal was driven not by corporate greed, immorality or some desire to break longstanding promises, but rather by the recognition that Patriot simply cannot emerge from bankruptcy unless and until it obtains the cash savings necessary for Patriot to remain viable.
Patriot filed for bankruptcy last July as a result of one the sharpest coal market declines in decades, increasing regulatory and environmental cost burdens, and unsustainable payments for legacy obligations.
Since then, the reorganization process has required Patriot to make many difficult decisions to achieve the savings necessary to remain viable. The company has undertaken mine closures, workforce reductions, contract rejections and modifications, capital expenditure cuts and significant compensation and benefit reductions for our salary and non-union employees.
Efforts to secure savings from our non-union employees - who constitute about 60 percent of Patriot's total workforce - began before and continued after the start of negotiations with the UMWA.
The UMWA is now being asked to do its fair share to help Patriot survive.
Contrary to what has been reported in the media, Patriot's proposal to the UMWA does not aim to "throw out" our collective bargaining agreements.
We seek only to modify union employees' wages and benefits so they are in line with the regional labor markets and with non-represented workers who do the same jobs at other Patriot operations.
It is also important to note that Patriot is not proposing to eliminate health care or pensions for UMWA retirees. Rather, its proposal allows for continued health care coverage for union retirees at a level that Patriot can afford.