Despite warning, Murray Energy says no layoffs expected

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The CEO of coal giant Murray Energy said Thursday that company officials are doing their best to avoid the layoffs that 4,400 workers in six states were warned about in precautionary notices last month.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Bob Murray said the company is trying to fend off bankruptcy while navigating a sluggish coal market. He said the company has two major debt payments to creditors that it must make in order to stay in business.

“We’re not sure where we stand on those payments,” Murray said. He declined to say how much the company owes, but he said officials are working on a plan to make the debt payments.

“We’re doing everything in our power to make sure we don’t lay off a single person,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is enter bankruptcy.”

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires companies to give a 60-day notice if a massive layoff is possible. On June 29, workers in Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and West Virginia received the notices, which Murray described as a precautionary measure.

A news release from the St. Clairsville, Ohio, company this week also stated that “no layoffs are contemplated or expected at this time.”

Murray has about 5,300 employees, down from about 8,400 in May 2015.

Bob Murray said the company is also trying to reach an agreement with the company’s unionized workforce. Last month, the United Mine Workers of America rejected a proposed contract with Murray and other coal operators. Murray said the layoff notices were not connected with that.

Murray Energy is one of the nation’s top coal producers, according to the Energy Information Administration. Three other major producers — Peabody, Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources — have each filed for bankruptcy in the past year.