Phil Smith

The United Mine Workers of America plan to appeal a court ruling that will significantly cut health care and pension benefits to thousands of workers and retirees, including many in Kentucky.

On Wednesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States approved Peabody Energy Corp. spin-off Patriot Coal’s request to impose wage and benefit cuts by throwing out its collective bargaining agreements with the UMW. Union spokesman Phil Smith says the battle is far from over, however.

A pending federal bankruptcy court decision could affect thousands of Kentucky mine worker benefits.

Patriot Coal Corporation, which operates two mines in Union and Henderson counties, wants to modify their collective bargaining agreements with the United Mine Workers Association. Patriot will replace all health care benefits for retirees with a Voluntary Employee Benefit Association trust. Patriot doesn't plan to replace the health insurance program for current employees.