FIFO debate erupts at Maules Creek Mine

The CFMEU has called on Whitehaven Coal to employ local workers who recently lost their jobs rather than use a FIFO workforce for the development of its Maules Creek Mine.

More than 140 workers were recently made redundant from mines in the Gunnedah Basin, and the CFMEU want to see these people given priority over FIFO employees.

“Whitehaven should be giving priority to locals looking for work and the construction phase of Maules Creek is a great opportunity to start training local workers,” said Grahame Kelly, CFMEU Northern District Secretary.

“FIFO is bad for communities, it’s bad for families, it’s bad for workers, it’s bad for local economies; but the future for all mining operations in NSW is that local workforces will be gradually eroded by FIFO unless the State Government acts to nip it in the bud.

“A reliance on FIFO at Maules Creek should set off alarm bells throughout NSW’s coal mining belt.”

Whitehaven recently released a breakdown of its workforce highlighting that almost 85 per cent, or 513 of its 617 employees were locally based in the Gunnedah, Tamworth, Narrabri, and Liverpool Plains areas.

The company’s managing director Paul Flynn said while the company was ‘committed to developing and maintaining, wherever possible, a locally based workforce’ FIFO employees would be required.

‘At times, these large employment numbers will require a fly-in-fly-out contractor component, particularly during construction, and there is no viable alternative to this combination of employment options,’’ Flynn said.

He said Whitehaven’s local workforce would be supplemented by specialist FIFO contractors.

‘‘This is particularly the case with the development of our Maules Creek mine, which will require a workforce of up to 340 full-time-equivalent employees and contractors during the 18-month construction phase,’’ Flynn said.

“It would be almost impossible to find this many skilled employees locally for the relatively short time required, and that is where FIFO, or drive in-drive out, have a role to play.

 “As we move out of construction and into production at Maules Creek, we plan to quickly and successfully transition to a higher proportion of local employment.’’

Flynn said the underlying intent was to maintain and grow a locally-focussed workforce by providing training to locals.

The company said since commencing production in 2010 its training program has employed around 60 people under its ‘cleanskins’ program, while it also employs ten-fulltime apprentices and four school-based apprentices.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.