Call for FIFO elec­tion fo­cus

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Tom Zaun­mayr

Pil­bara res­i­dents are call­ing on politi­cians to make lo­cal em­ploy­ment an elec­tion is­sue as claims of re­sources com­pa­nies and contractors pre­fer­ring “breeze-ins” con­tinue to sur­face across the re­gion.

The Rose fam­ily have lived in the Pil­bara for 14 years but claim they are now at risk of leav­ing the place they call home be­cause the ma­jor re­sources com­pa­nies chose to hire fly-in, fly-out work­ers over them.

The cou­ple can rat­tle off a long list of tick­ets often asked for by min­ing com­pa­nies and contractors, but John Rose said that counted for lit­tle when they raised the fact they lived in Kar­ratha.

But re­sources com­pa­nies dis­agree, in­clud­ing Wood­side, which says it em­ploys a 70 per cent res­i­den­tial work­force at the North West Shelf, and Rio Tinto, which pointed to its home-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the re­gion.

Mr Rose said the ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers had ap­plied for many jobs in the past year, but kept get­ting knocked back be­cause they did not want to go FIFO.

“My wife was of­fered a job, then the peo­ple they were work­ing for said ‘well, we can’t of­fer you the job now be­cause you need to do an in­duc­tion in Perth’,” he said. “My wife said she’d be happy to pay for the air­fare down to do the in­duc­tion and the com­pany still said ‘sorry, not good enough’.

“I’ve still got kids here at school, so I don’t want to leave for that

rea­son alone, plus we en­joy the town.”

Mr Rose said there were a lot of skilled work­ers liv­ing in the Pil­bara who should be pri­ori­tised for jobs over FIFO work­ers.

DB Yurra In­dus­trial Con­struc­tion Ser­vices WA op­er­a­tions man­ager Josh Bo­ord said lo­cal job­seek­ers were often left frus­trated by the num­ber of FIFOonly po­si­tions ad­ver­tised.

“Often we don’t get a look-in be­cause we’re try­ing to em­ploy lo­cals,” he said.

“I have some good trades­men here who are at the doorstep of these jobs that have been turned away be­cause they are purely FIFO po­si­tions.

“We have had a cou­ple of good suc­cess sto­ries where we have been able to give guys full-time op­por­tu­ni­ties and that has en­abled them to get their own home, to rent, to get their kids and part­ner up here and set­tle in.”

Mr Bo­ord said hiring FIFO made no sense given the po­ten­tial cost sav­ings of hiring a lo­cal who did not need to be flown up, fed or housed.

A Wood­side spokes­woman said about 70 per cent of North West Shelf work­ers were res­i­den­tial, in­clud­ing a ma­jor­ity of Kar­ratha Gas Plant staff.

“There has been no change to Wood­side’s work­force struc­ture in Kar­ratha this year, and no job losses,” she said.

“Wood­side re­mains com­mit­ted to main­tain­ing a sig­nif­i­cant res­i­den­tial work­force in Kar­ratha, as it has for more than 30 years.”

The spokes­woman said Wood­side spent $44 mil­lion on busi­nesses, non-prof­its, in­dige­nous cor­po­ra­tions and Govern­ment agen­cies in the City of Kar­ratha in 2015 alone.

A Rio Tinto spokesman said Rio had added more than 500 new res­i­den­tial houses to its port­fo­lio in Wick­ham and Kar­ratha in the past few years.

“Near the coastal towns, we av­er­age around 75 per cent res­i­den­tial em­ploy­ees,” he said.

“For the inland min­ing towns, we av­er­age be­tween 40-65 per cent res­i­den­tial.

“One of the key rea­sons for en­gag­ing FIFO work­ers is that the skills re­quired are not avail­able lo­cally.”

The Pil­bara News asked rep­re­sen­ta­tives from each of the four ma­jor par­ties for their views on the is­sue.

State De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Bill Marmion was un­avail­able for com­ment.

WA Na­tion­als Leader Bren­don Grylls

“It is ob­vi­ously sub­stan­tially cheaper to have a worker liv­ing res­i­den­tially in the Pil­bara rather than fly­ing in and out.

“At the mo­ment, where there is a ma­jor de­bate go­ing on around prof­itabil­ity of the min­ers, you would have thought they would be seek­ing the lowest cost path­way to em­ploy­ment.

“It dis­ap­points me greatly when peo­ple tell me they own their own house in Kar­ratha and they are miss­ing out on jobs to FIFO peo­ple.

“You will be hear­ing dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign some of our thoughts around how we might re­mind com­pa­nies that res­i­den­tial is a good op­tion.”

State Op­po­si­tion Leader Mark McGowan

“Em­ploy­ers should be giv­ing work­ers a choice of whether they want to live lo­cally or work fly-in, fly-out or drive-in, drive-out.

“Too many jobs are be­ing ad­ver­tised as FIFO only, thereby stop­ping Pil­bara res­i­dents from ap­ply­ing for jobs in the re­gion.

“We also think FIFO camps should no longer be able to house tourists and to com­pete against lo­cal tourism op­er­a­tors.”

“A McGowan La­bor Govern­ment would work with re­source com­pa­nies to ame­lio­rate FIFO work prac­tices, pro­vide choice for work­ers and cre­ate strong re­gional com­mu­ni­ties and longterm em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in re­gional cen­tres.”

Greens Mem­ber for Min­ing and Pas­toral Robin Chap­ple

“FIFO prac­tices do not pro­mote the growth of re­gional com­mu­ni­ties as ... FIFO work­ers do not have a per­sonal com­mit­ment to the town they’re based in.

“We’ve seen a de­cline in com­mu­nity el­e­ments such as sport­ing clubs ... along with an in­crease in the cost of liv­ing and a much greater im­post on re­gional Shires who have had to cope with the pro­vi­sion of ser­vices for an in­flux of tem­po­rary peo­ple. If we want the North West to grow then we need to en­cour­age peo­ple to move to the re­gions per­ma­nently, and do away with FIFO prac­tices al­to­gether.”

Pic­ture: Danella Be­vis

Na­tion­als leader Bren­don Grylls.

Pic­ture: Simon Santi

La­bor leader Mark McGowan.

Greens Mem­ber for Min­ing and Pas­toral Robin Chap­ple.

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