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Bankrupt Patriot Coal can reject collective bargaining - court rules

May 29 (Reuters) - Bankrupt Patriot Coal Corp. can reject collective bargaining agreements, cease pension contributions and convert retiree healthcare to an outside fund as part of its plan to save $150 million a year in labor costs, a court ruled on Wednesday.

Judge Kathy Surratt-States of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis said Patriot Coal, which filed for bankruptcy last year, might have been a victim of unwarranted optimism about future prospects but that unions shared some blame.

“Unions generally try to bargain for the best deal for their members, however, there is likely some responsibility to be absorbed for demanding benefits that the employer cannot realistically fund in perpetuity, particularly given the availability of sophisticated actuarial analysts and cost trend experts,” she wrote in a 102-page opinion.

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