Murray Energy Corp. president and chief executive officer Robert Murray said he is working to pay down his company’s debt to avoid mass layoffs that he hinted at a week earlier.
The Associated Press reported that Murray said the company has two major debt payments to creditors that it must make in order to stay in business. A week earlier he had suggested the company might be forced to lay off 4,400 workers, or 82 percent of its workforce by September, due to the downturn in the coal market. The company also blamed President Obama’s energy policies for its financial difficulties.
Murray didn’t tell the AP the size of those payments, but he said the company is putting together a plan to make them, a step he said could help the company avoid bankruptcy and prevent mass layoffs.
"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 company 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