BHP-owned Aussie coal mine to lock workers out again

BHP Billiton-owned Appin coal mine in southern Australia will lock out its workforce on Sunday, the third time in four weeks, amid tense negotiations with supervisors over a new corporate agreement.

The 48 hour measure will start at 6:00am on Sunday and run until Tuesday, said the Association of Professional Engineers Scientists and Managers Australia (APESMA) in an e-mailed statement.

Union leader Chris Walton said BHP's decision of going for a third lockout in barely a month was “excessive” and did nothing to solve the ongoing dispute

The group representing white collar mine workers said BHP is trying to force the mining supervisors into a four-year agreement with no annual pay increases, while the company argues that a 27% pay claim is "unrealistic" and has chosen to lock its workers out to minimize disruption to the mine.

BHP Billiton Illawarra Coal said union members were refusing to work their entire shift so the company was forced to take action to minimize interference with daily operations.

“Locking out supervisors does not fix this dispute. We call on BHP to cancel this lockout an recommence discussions to resolve this dispute immediately,” said Walton.

“Every lockout is disruptive and makes resolution more difficult and further away (…) The quickest and easiest way to fix this is for BHP to return to the negotiating table and talk to these mining supervisors like adults,” he added.

Coal extracted from Appin mine is premium quality hard coking coal and is used for coke making by the Australian steel industry, and is also exported to customers around the world.