“Every lockout is disruptive and makes resolution more difficult,” said Walton. “The easiest way is for BHP to return to the negotiating table and talk to these mining supervisors like adults.”

BHP last locked out its workers two weeks ago, after mining supervisors notified the company of work stoppage plans. Workers seek an 18% pay raise with an additional 4% under a new annual enterprise contract.

Illawarra Coal President Troy McDonald called the demands unreasonable “in the current challenging environment in the coal industry with falling prices and a high Australian dollar,’’ he said. Strikes have also hit Dendrobium, BHP’s other Illawarra coal mine.