CFMEU pushes for an end to FIFO in QLD

A forum convened by the CFMEU heard that 100 per cent FIFO in Queensland coal mines must come to an end.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President Steve Smyth said along with a ban on 100 per cent FIFO operations, the community also wants to see workers at existing FIFO operations given job security, FIFO workers to be given choice and incentive to move locally, and new jobs at existing 100 per cent FIFO operations to be open to local workers.

The forum was attended by several community representatives including Federal MP for Kennedy Bob Katter, Federal MP for Capricornia Michelle Landry, State MP for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert, Isaac Shire Mayor Anne Baker, Queensland Council of Unions President John Battams, local business operators and representatives from Mackay and Whitsunday councils.

The CFMEU said the forum heard stories of families being forced to leave Mackay and surrounding areas in order to keep their mining jobs.

“Today’s forum was extremely encouraging. There’s strong consensus across the political spectrum to tackle the scourge of compulsory FIFO,” Smyth said.

Ending FIFO

The move to end 100 per cent FIFO operations in Queensland has gained momentum of late as community angst around the transient workforce strategy deepens.

In Central Queensland, BHP Billiton has been criticised for staffing its new Duania and Caval Ridge mines with FIFO workers.

This means that locals cannot apply for jobs at the site, with employees instead sourced from outside the small  towns near where the mines operate.

The mining company has previously defended its decision, claiming it needs access to a diverse workforce.

But others say locking locals out of the recruitment process is hurting the community as FIFO workers spend little to no money in small towns.

They also say people have had to leave the area in order to secure work and argue that this is working to destroy the social fabric in some small Queensland towns.

A number of small businesses in Moranbah have already closed, and some motels in the town are trading at less than 20 per cent occupancy.

The new Queensland government has confirmed it will review all 100 per cent FIFO operations in the state.

The state’s new mining minister, Anthony Lynham, said the review would encompass existing mines, and ensure the practice is not adopted for new mines.

"We're reviewing the previous 100 per cent FIFO mines (Daunia and Caval Ridge) and we are also making sure we don't have 100 per cent FIFO for new mines," Lynham said.

He added that the review would be conducted "as soon as possible".

Smyth there is no reason to have 100% FIFO workforces operating in Queensland and welcomes the review.

 “We are encouraged that the Queensland Government is holding a review into compulsory 100% FIFO and we are urging all interested individuals and organisations to make submissions to that review,” he said.

“But we’ll need action at all levels of government to achieve a fair go for regional Queensland. The CFMEU looks forward to working collaboratively with everyone who took part in today’s forum to bring about change.”

Queensland Resources Council CEO Michael Roche has defended the use of a transient workforce and doesn’t want to see mine approvals changed.

“Changing the rules under which companies have committed billions of investment dollars would be a very bad move by any government serious about attracting new investment and jobs,” Roche said.

BHP said its  Daunia and Caval Ridge mines employ over 245 people from Cairns, with a further 800 people from across Ipswich, Logan, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

"The sites have an extremely diverse workforce, with over 200 females, 32 Indigenous and over 40 per cent who are new to the mining industry working on site,” the company said.

"BMA is committed to continuing to support our local communities, with the Daunia and Caval Ridge mines supported by over 200 Mackay and Moranbah-based contractors.”

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