Careers at Walter Energy
We are a natural resources company. Natural resources define us, but our success depends on our human resources as well.
Our vision is to be the preferred metallurgical coal provider to world markets. We want to be a leader in safety and operational excellence as we meet the demands of the global steel industry.
We cannot achieve these goals without the efforts of a safe, healthy, well-trained, and committed workforce. We value safety, integrity, personal responsibility, and team work in our workplaces and are committed to providing the training and education necessary for all employees to perform their tasks effectively.We believe embracing these values is essential to the development of the workforce we need to achieve our vision.
- A safe and healthy workplace is a fundamental right of every employee;
- All individuals are responsible for their own safety and the safety of those around them;
- All work-related injuries must be reported to management immediately;
- Everyone has the right and obligation to refuse work or to challenge work practices they deem to be unsafe;
- All potential work-related incidents and injuries should be prevented; and
- Working safely is a condition of employment at Walter Energy.
All our plans, programs, and actions are focused on developing within the Company a culture of safety. This requires us to conduct our business in a manner that strives to meet all applicable health and safety regulations without exception and requires that we conduct ourselves with the highest level of ethics and integrity. Finally, we believe that only through open and honest communication with all employees can we achieve the mutual trust needed to ensure the continued growth of this culture.
- Personal involvement and commitment
- Incident evaluation
- Technology enhancements
- Rewards and incentives
In addition to ensuring that employees have a safe work environment and the appropriate tools and training to do their jobs safely and efficiently, we also are committed to providing a variety of benefits that support the wellbeing of our employees and their families, both physically and financially. Benefit plans may vary from country to country or may depend on whether or not an employee is subject to the terms of a labor agreement.
For salaried employees, our benefits package is designed to offer an array of choices that allows the employee to balance cost with coverage in a way that best suits the needs of the employee and his or her family. For many employees, the Company offers a choice of medical, dental, and vision plans. We offer employees in the U.S. the opportunity to establish tax-favored flexible spending accounts, allowing them to pay for a portion of their medical costs with pre-tax dollars.
The Company also provides company-paid plans of life and accident insurance, salary continuation, and long-term disability. Employees can elect to augment the life and accident plans by purchasing additional coverage.
In the U.S., the Walter Energy 401(k) Plan and Retirement Savings Plan help employees build savings for the future through the use of tax-deferred savings, while the Company’s Employee Stock Purchase Plan offers all employees the opportunity to participate in the future growth of the Company.
The Company provides paid time off for vacations and holidays as well as for educational assistance through reimbursement of costs for business-related course work.
Because no two employees needs or the needs of their families are the same, our salaried employee plans emphasize flexibility and choice that allow every employee to tailor a plan that is best suited to personal and family needs.
Collective Bargaining Agreements
Some of our employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements that specify wages, benefits, work rules, and employee contributions to these benefit programs. Collective bargaining agreements often run for multi-year terms and, in general, provide health benefits similar to those provided to salaried employees.
The retirement provisions of collective bargaining agreements are often different from the plans offered to salaried employees. Some collective bargaining agreements have provided for defined benefits retirement plans. However, defined benefit plans are no longer offered to new entrants. Instead, employees are offered defined contribution plans. In addition, salaried agreements provide defined contributions plans in which employees contribute to their retirement and the Company provides a matching contribution.
Training and Development
We believe that continuous improvement in Company performance requires continuous investment in the training and education of our employees. To further that objective:
- We offer on-going job-specific training, including safety training and certifications to operate equipment (where applicable).
- We provide our employees with career opportunities. To encourage internal promotions, we normally post vacant positions for employee interest before considering outside candidates.
- We identify Company functions and positions, as well as the competencies that enable success in those positions. Using that data, we develop plans with potential candidates for those roles to improve competencies in identified areas.
- We support the formal education of our employees and offer an Educational Assistance Plan. The plan provides employees with reimbursement for educational expenses incurred for business-related courses and degrees.
- We conduct a two-day management-training program for Company supervisors because we recognize the value that effective management has on all employees. During the next two years, we expect all current supervisors will have participated in the program.
A Passion for Safety
Safety Inspector Mary Phillips loves her job and sees her role as her purpose in life. “I have a real passion for helping keep people safe, “ said Phillips, “I like being in a challenging, industrial environment but making sure people go home safely to their families at the end of the day.”
CEO Walt Scheller applauded Phillips’ example: “While safety is ultimately an individual responsibility, most of our work is done in teams. That means not only watching out for ourselves but watching out for the people we work with. Our safety inspectors are important members of our teams.”
Phillips was born in Gadsden, Alabama but traveled across the U.S. due to her father’s job in the Air Force. She grew up being her father’s protégé and learned a lot of her dad’s engineering skills. “My dad didn’t have any sons so I was his tomboy,” remembered Phillips. “My dad was super technical and a very natural problem solver. I really idolized that.”
After high school, Phillips joined the United States Army and served for several years. She returned to school at Jacksonville State University as an electrical engineer major. By this time, she was working at Alabama Power and became interested in the safety field. She later switched her major to Occupational Health and Safety.
In 2012, Phillips interned at Walter Energy and worked alongside the safety department. She wasn’t intimidated by her male peers but instead loved the challenges associated with the mining industry. “Once you prove you can work just as hard as any guy, you quickly gain a lot of respect,” she applauded. Phillips credits her mentors at the mine sites for giving her opportunities to learn and showcase her skills. “I was initially a little in awe of these guys just because they had so much experience and had been in the industry for over 30 years,” said Phillips, “but they are very patient and let me come to them with questions all the time.”
After graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Occupational Health and Safety and a Bachelors of Science in Industrial Technology Management, Phillips was hired at Walter Energy in 2013. “I love coming to work early in the morning, spending time with the men and catching up. Every day is different in the mines and there’s a lot of satisfaction in just getting your hands dirty…literally!”
JWR’s Central Shop
JWR’s Central Shop completed two years without a reportable incident on August 11th. By increasing Safe Work Observations (SWO’s) and by promoting safety awareness, Central Shop management has done a great job in creating a climate where safety is valued. “This milestone is a tribute to the effectiveness of teamwork; no one person or group can take credit for this achievement,” said Craig Brasfield, JWR Senior Director Asset Manager. The employees have also improved the safety culture by increasing safety walks, and actively encouraging everyone to looking out for each other on the job. Congratulations to the Central Shop team!
John Box has been a longwall shearer operator at Mine #7 West for four years. Coal mining isn’t just a job for John Box. It’s a part of his family and community. His father works at Mine #7 East and his mother will be retiring from the CMO next year. His grandfather had a mining business called Box Coal Company for many years.
Now mining has given him a platform for him to speak on behalf of all coal miners and their jobs. Because of recent EPA carbon emissions proposal, miners like Box have been asked asked by grass-roots organizations like Coal Jobs Count to speak first-hand about the economic importance of the coal industry.
“If these jobs go away, then everyone in our community will be affected because this is a coal mining town,” Box remarked. “I’ve grown up in Brookwood-Tuscaloosa area and seen first-hand how towns have thrived because of our company being here.”
While the EPA regulations most directly impact coal that’s sold to produce electricity rather than the met coal Walter Energy sells to steel producers, they still affect the company. “The Plan targets power plants in the U.S., so we’re not hit too hard initially because most of our coal is sold to steel mills outside the U.S.,” Walt Scheller, CEO wrote in the last issue of CoalMatters. “But we still sell coal to U.S. customers such as Alabama Power and American Electric Power. If a coal plant we serve shuts down or throttles back to meet Plan mandates, we’d lose business.” In addition, he noted that higher electricity prices caused by the regs would affect mine operating costs no matter what kind of coal is produced.
Alongside Coal Jobs Count, Box has traveled to rallies, appeared in a couple of television commercials, and has made impassioned public appeals to local and national politicians including President Obama. “John’s kind of a rock star at the moment,” Keith Shalvey, #7 West Mine Manager, “and he’s putting his celebrity status to good use. We’re proud to have him speaking for all of us.”
He doesn’t mince words about how tough a coal miner’s job can be. “As a kid, I used to help wash a lot of coal off my dad after he would come home.” Box recollects, “Back then, I didn’t understand what it took to do his job; what it took to feed his kids; what it now takes me. It takes a special individual to do this job.”
Box’s passion gives him great credibility. “When people hear John speak, they understand he has a stake in this debate,” said Tom Hoffman, VP-Communications for Walter Energy. “People believe him because he’s articulate and he speaks from the heart.”
Tiffany Bittner, Executive Director of Coal Jobs Count, is responsible for getting John in front of the cameras. She also understands what’s at stake. “Coal mining provides good paying jobs to a lot these communities,” she said. “You’re talking about affecting thousands of people if these jobs were to be eliminated.”
Elected officials pay attention to jobs. “Leaders like Governor Bentley (R-AL) understand that the loss of a single job can ripple through a state’s economy and indirectly affect many more jobs,” Amanda Lawson, Director – Government Affairs for Walter Energy explained. “He’s been very involved in this debate. He understands that without a robust economy, there won’t be resources to address other issues like the environment.”
And that’s why John Box tries to make the most of his current celebrity status. He knows what’s at stake. He’s speaking not just for his job and those of his co-workers at #7 West; he’s speaking for his family and the well-being of his community as well.
When asked what a being a leader means to him, the first words Central Shop General Manager Eddie Gardiner said was, “caring about your people.” In 34 years, Gardiner has earned the respect and admiration of his team because of his careful planning, and his collaborative approach to his job and leading his teams at the Shop.
Gardiner grew up in Birmingport, Alabama and went to school at Oak Grove High School. After graduation, he enrolled at Jefferson State Community College and earned a degree in Management and Supervision Technology. In 1970, Gardiner enlisted in the Army and served a two year tour in Germany.
Gardiner joined Walter Energy in 1980 as a Machinist. He spent 14 years working on the shop floor as a foreman working various shifts. Two years ago, Gardiner was offered the General Manager position. “You learn a lot as you come up through the ranks, said Gardiner, “I like learning through on the job training. “ His day-to-day responsibilities can change due to the demands of the Shop, but he likes that.
Gardiner currently manages 50 employees at the shop. He admits that trying to incorporate change into an existing process can be a challenge, but he’s learned how to work with his teams to overcome those fears. “You have to work with people to get them motivated to want to change,” Gardiner explained. “Change is hard to accept and you can’t force it on people. “
Since becoming General Manager, Gardiner has worked to make sure the foremen are in constant communication with their teams and everyone has the same information. ‘We want to make sure everyone knows what the information is, where the information is, and who they need to go to.” said Gardiner. “If we give our guys the right tools and the right information, then we can accomplish more.”
Gardiner said he is most proud of instilling a culture of safety and compassion among his teams and teaching them to constantly watch out for one another. “We do safety meetings three of four times a week,” said Gardiner. “We are constantly talking to them about not getting hurt and keeping good safety practices.”
That effort has paid off. Central Shop recently passed two years without a reportable accident.
In his spare time, Gardiner loves to hunt, fish and work on his’ 57 Chevrolet. Gardiner and his wife have two kids and five grandchildren with one more on the way!