- Associated Press - Sunday, January 3, 2016

BROOKWOOD, Ala. (AP) - More than 300 miners were temporarily laid off from their jobs at Jim Walter Resources No. 4 mine in Brookwood.

Walter Energy announced the latest in a series of layoffs at the No. 4 and No. 7 mines, once again citing continuing depressed market conditions within the industry, the Tuscaloosa News (https://bit.ly/1MHbmxn) reported. The miners were laid off Tuesday.

The Hoover-based company that owns Walter Energy has made significant reductions to its workforce this year. In July, Walter filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which executives said could be converted to Chapter 7 if they can’t find a buyer.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy means the company’s Alabama assets would be liquidated and work at the mines would cease.

Bankruptcy proceedings are wrapping up after several months of hearings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Birmingham.

Judge Tamara Mitchell ruled Monday that Walter Energy can terminate its collective bargaining agreement with the United Mineworkers of America and United Steelworkers and cease paying retiree health benefits to facilitate a sale to the company’s senior lenders, who have refused in negotiations to take on those obligations.

Financial advisers for the lenders said in court two weeks ago that no entities have shown interest in buying the company’s Alabama mines. Walter CEO Walt Scheller said in court that the company will likely run out of cash by January or February.

The judge also ruled that Walter Energy can pay about $2 million in retention bonuses to non-union employees.

Cecil Roberts, UMWA president, issued a statement about the judge’s ruling allowing Walter Energy to reject the collective bargaining agreement and freeing the company from paying retiree health and pension benefits, calling the decision “extremely disappointing but not surprising.”

“The law is stacked against workers in American bankruptcy courts,” he stated.

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