Com­mu­nity op­poses FIFO com­ments

Pilbara News - - Front Page - Ali­cia Per­era and Sophia Con­stan­tine

Claims by Rio Tinto that fly-in, fly­out work­forces are “good for the bush” have been re­futed by Pil­bara res­i­dents, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and cham­bers of com­merce.

Rio Tinto chief ex­ec­u­tive iron ore Chris Sal­is­bury last week said the com­pany’s re­gional FIFO pro­gram made “a sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tion to re­gional West­ern Aus­tralia” with more than 2000 of its FIFO work­force com­ing from re­gional WA hubs in­clud­ing Man­durah, Bus­sel­ton, Al­bany and Ger­ald­ton.

But Pil­bara rep­re­sen­ta­tives said any ben­e­fits claimed to flow from the re­gional FIFO pro­gram no­tably did not ap­ply to the Pil­bara.

WA Na­tion­als leader and Pil­bara MLA Bren­don Grylls, who at his cam­paign launch this month an­nounced a pol­icy of­fer­ing com­pa­nies in­cen­tives for of­fer­ing res­i­den­tial jobs, said the com­ments were a “se­ri­ous slap in the face” to Pil­bara res­i­dents and showed min­ing com­pa­nies were “out of touch” with com­mu­nity sen­ti­ment.

He said FIFO was the “num­berone is­sue” he heard from com­mu­nity mem­bers and he be­lieved ma­jor min­ing com­pa­nies in town were still pri­ori­tis­ing FIFO over resi-

den­tial work in the Pil­bara, with a lot of peo­ple telling him they had been forced to move from the Pil­bara and go FIFO for re­sources work.

“We’ve nor­malised the rents, it’s af­ford­able to live here now, we’ve im­proved the ser­vice de­liv­ery in both health and ed­u­ca­tion and live­abil­ity in terms of the Leisure­plex, cafes and small bars and the like, so we’ve taken away the rea­sons FIFO started,” he said.

“You would think the next 50 jobs ad­ver­tised would be res­i­den­tial . . . but it’s just not hap­pen­ing.”

Mr Grylls said he agreed there was a place for FIFO serv­ing re­mote mine sites, but not those close to es­tab­lished towns.

Pil­bara Re­gional Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Tony Fri­day said the Pil­bara suf­fered eco­nom­i­cally from FIFO be­cause un­like res­i­den­tial work, FIFO work pre­vented money be­ing rein­vested into the econ­omy where it was earned.

“The im­pact of FIFO is that work­ers earn their money in one econ­omy — the Pil­bara — and then spend it in an­other — Perth, Bunbury, et cetera,” he said. “This means the Pil­bara pro­vides the source of the eco­nomic stim­u­lus, but de­rives very lit­tle of its value.”

Mr Fri­day said min­ing com­pa­nies should have to show “ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances” for us­ing FIFO in­stead of res­i­den­tial work­ers on con­struc­tion projects.

He said the Pil­bara’s bat­tle to re­duce FIFO stemmed from its per­sis­tent “im­age prob­lem” im­age as a gi­ant mine site with noth­ing else to of­fer prospec­tive res­i­dents.

Mr Sal­is­bury’s com­ments were made in praise of an in­de­pen­dent ACIL Allen Con­sult­ing re­port show­ing Rio’s re­gional FIFO pro­gram, set up in 2006, had eco­nomic ben­e­fits in its home re­gions.

He said the pro­gram was “sus­tain­ing lo­cal pop­u­la­tions” so “so­cial in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices are more vi­able, lo­cal busi­nesses have cus­tomers with money in their pocket and new jobs are be­ing cre­ated in re­gional WA”.

The Cham­ber of Min­er­als and En­ergy of West­ern Aus­tralia also is­sued a state­ment in sup­port of the re­port in which CME chief ex­ec­u­tive Reg Howard-Smith said FIFO was a pref­er­ence for a lot of WA re­source sec­tor em­ploy­ees and “politi­cians should not dic­tate to peo­ple where they should live and work”.

City of Kar­ratha and Shire of Ash­bur­ton both said they sup­ported mainly res­i­den­tial work­ers.

“The City of Kar­ratha has been con­sis­tent in its ad­vo­cacy for op­er­a­tional work­forces to be res­i­den­tial to the great­est ex­tent pos­si­ble with FIFO work­ers used mainly for con­struc­tion projects and peak pe­ri­ods such as shut­downs,” City of Kar­ratha Mayor Peter Long said.

Shire of Ash­bur­ton Kerry White said FIFO was a “com­plex is­sue” with fac­tors in­clud­ing dis­tance and the life and size of a mine to con­sider, but the lo­cal gov­ern­ment wanted to see per­ma­nent pop­u­la­tions grow and be sus­tain­able in the Pil­bara.

Pil­bara Re­gional Cham­bers of Com­merce spokesman John Lally said it en­cour­aged res­i­den­tial work­forces which build re­gional com­mu­ni­ties and busi­nesses.

Fortes­cue Me­tals Group port and rail gen­eral man­ager Fer­nando Pereira said the com­pany was com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing a res­i­den­tial op­er­a­tion work­force in the Pil­bara while also run­ning FIFO work from Pil­bara towns to re­mote mine sites.

A BHP Bil­li­ton spokesman said its Port Hed­land and New­man work­force was mostly res­i­den­tial but it viewed “a mix of res­i­den­tial and FIFO roles” al­lowed flex­i­ble work ar­range­ments.

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