The United Mine Workers said Monday it has reached a tentative labor agreement with coal producers that employ thousands of its members around the country.
The agreement on a new 5 1/2-year contract covers miners who work for members of the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. It also covers pensions for every company involved with the union's 1974 retirement plan, and members of 125 locals representing employees of numerous coal companies must approve the deal.
The union said details will not be released until members are briefed Wednesday. Members are scheduled to vote on the proposed deal Friday.
The deal is likely to serve as a template for the union's dealings with other coal companies.
"This has been a long and intense process," union President Cecil Roberts said in a statement. "We had many issues to confront, especially with respect to our pensions, health care and wages ... We were able to meet those challenges."
The Bituminous Coal Operators confirmed the tentative agreement but declined further comment.
The Washington, D.C.-based association primarily represents unionized subsidiaries of Canonsburg, Pa.-based coal and natural gas producer Consol Energy.
As of Dec. 31, nearly 3,000 of Consol's 8,600 employees _ or 34 percent _ were represented by the UMW, according to the company's latest annual report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Union mines accounted for 49 percent of the 62.4 million tons Consol produced in 2010, according to the filing.
The pension portion covers thousands more at major coal producers including St. Louis-based Patriot Coal, Abingdon, Va.-based Alpha Natural Resources and Walter Energy's mines in Alabama, among others.
The deal is significant because union members will have voted on the full agreement as they head into negotiations with other companies, spokesman Phil Smith said.