FIFO workers moving to WA due to COVID-19 must get a fair deal

Published: 27 Mar 2020

Mining companies operating in Western Australia are encouraging interstate fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers to move locally during the COVID-19 outbreak, but some including Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) are being stingy with about covering expenses.

With efforts to reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission through travel, major mining companies including BHP, Rio Tinto and FMG have offered interstate FIFO workers a range of options including changed rosters based on living in Perth or local mining regions.

CFMEU Mining and Energy WA Secretary Greg Busson said mining companies were right to explore options, but workers shouldn’t be left out of pocket.

“It is important that mining continue through this crisis to support jobs and the economy,” said Mr Busson. “Even though FIFO mineworkers are exempt from the travel ban, moving to a local workforce model is a good way to reduce the risks to workers and mining communities posed by excessive travel at this time.

“However, companies must cover the costs of workers’ relocation and compensate them for the upheaval to their lives and families. Workers shouldn’t be paying the price for the mining industry to continue operating.”

FMG has called for expressions of interest for FIFO workers from the eastern states to move to WA temporarily – but is only offering them camp style housing in Port Hedland or the option of moving to Perth with no financial support to cover accommodation or living expenses.

Rio Tinto is also offering changed rosters and encouraging its FIFO workforce to move west, but with a daily allowance that wouldn’t cover the cost of accommodation in Perth. The Union is seeking to meet with Rio Tinto to reach an outcome that meets the needs of the company and workers.

Only BHP has offered generous arrangements that would cover accommodation costs and recognise the impact on families if workers move west temporarily.

“Skilled and experienced mineworkers are essential to keeping the industry going through this crisis,” said Mr Busson.

“BHP has set the standard here with a generous allowance and support for families. All of these mining companies can afford to do the right thing and cover relocation expenses, reasonable accommodation and compensate families for the upheaval involved.”