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Judge gives green light for retention bonuses for Westmoreland Coal top managers

BILLINGS- A federal bankruptcy judge in Houston bankruptcy court gave an okay to Westmoreland Coal’s request to pay 243 of its mid-level managers retention bonuses in an effort to stem employee attrition.

That approval was in spite of union protests that claim the company is trying to reduce miners’ benefits while doling out bonuses to top management at the same time.

Westmoreland owns and operates the Rosebud Mine at Colstrip and the Savage and Absaloka coal mines in Montana and the Kemmerer mine in Wyoming.

Westmoreland also disclosed to the court this week that it does not anticipate repaying the company’s unsecured debt, which includes $334 million in medical benefits for Westmoreland retiree, $41.7 million in pension obligations, and another $21.8 million in compensation for black lung disease claims.

The company’s court filings estimate its unsecured debt ranges between $740 million and $930 million.

In October, Westmoreland filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, listing more than $1.4 billion in debt, and began seeking to reorganize.

As part of its restructuring plan, Westmoreland told the court that reducing its legacy labor costs are crucial for the company to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

Related: Westmoreland Coal top exec resigns, takes bonus designed to keep him through bankruptcy

Jay Kohn

Jay Kohn

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