BHP’s decision to use a 100 per cent FIFO workforce instead of hiring from inside the local Central Queensland community, has enraged locals, the unions as well as the wider mining community at large.
With two coal mines in Bowen Basin about to start production, it was widely hoped that BHP would source the 1000 employees needed for the project from the surrounding areas of Moranbah, Dysart, Mackay and Rockhampton.
Instead, workers will be flown in from Brisbane and Cairns, a move which means local members of the community have missed out on crucial jobs.
In what comes as a slap in the face for Bowen Basin locals, the miner set aside 250 vacancies exclusively for tradespeople from the Cairns region while 14,000 Brisbane-based tradies have already applied for the remaining 750 jobs.
The recruitment drive made by BHP in both cities called for qualified local tradespeople with or without mining experience.
In return BMA promised an "attractive" seven-on seven-off roster at the Daunia or Caval Ridge mines, access to latest technology and equipment, career development, and accommodation in a modern village while away at work.
The CFMEU have slammed the miners’ decision.
Miners’ Union national secretary Andrew Vickers said Bowen Basin locals were furious at BHP for shutting them out the recruitment process.
“Giving preference to transient workers does nothing for nearby communities, many of which have ensured significant job cuts in recent months, particularly at BHP’s own operations,” Vickers said.
“By relying so heavily on FIFO, BHP is locking out local workers from the benefits and delivering more negative aspects of the mining boom the Central Queensland communities.”
President of the Moranbah Traders Association, Peter Finlay, said local residents should have the opportunity to apply for jobs in their own community.
"It's seven kilometres from the post office and if you want to work there you can't have an address in Moranbah – how stupid is that?" he said.
"I'm sure somebody buys a hamburger now and then but the vast majority of wages are spent elsewhere."
Isaac Mayor Anne Baker says the people of Moranbah are frustrated and that the influx of people will put more pressure on already straining infrastructure.
"There are certainly critical impacts, for example the roads," she said.
The move by BHP to recruit a solely FIFO workforce for the two projects comes after a parliamentary report was released last month outlining the damaging impacts the transient workforce can have on regional communities.
“….the work practice is eroding the liveability of some regional communities to such an extent that it is increasingly removing the choice to ‘live-in’ rather than simply ‘cash-in,” the report stated.
The findings of the 209-page report were tabled in Parliament last month and, made 21 recommendations to government and 14 to industry including better resourcing communities under pressure from large FIFO and DIDO workforces and removing tax benefits for companies using transient workforces.
“….for operational positions located near existing regional communities, every effort should be made to make FIFO/DIDO the exception rather than the rule."
BHP’s decision shows a total disregard for the report and its calls for miners to help support regional communities.
Meanwhile, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney announced an up-grade to the airport at Moranban to support the FIFO workforce, a clear sign that the Queensland Government is not onboard with making positive changes either.
Some argue that the move is a way for BHP to spread the wealth of the mines to other parts of Queensland.
BMA asset president Stephen Dumble said the new jobs will pump about $60 million into the Cairns region.
However, others say the decision surrounds BMA’s desire to negate union influence in the mines after clashing heavily with the Queensland arm of the CFMEU in a 2-year long industrial dispute at it’s Gregory Crinum mine.
Whatever the reason, it hardly seems fair that locals should miss out to the tune of 100 per cent.
The Bowen Basin mine workforce has been through a lot in the last year.
BHP closed both their Norwich Park and Gregory coal mine last year, resulting in hundreds of job losses, while Rio Tinto and Xstrata both culled jobs in the region.
No one is asking BHP to be a social do-gooder, or clean up other companies messes at the expense of their own bottom dollar.
But what people do expect is a fair go.