A survey of 2300 of Queensland’s resource industry workers has found that most want to be able to choose whether to live in resource communities, or be long distance commuters.
In a submission to the Queensland Parliamentary Inquiry into fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) and other long-distance commuting work practices in regional Queensland, the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) said that after consulting workers, the message was that both residential and non-residential options should be available to enable the attraction of the best employees.
“The QRC calls on the Parliamentary Committee to ensure it hears from a representative cross-section of the workforce during its deliberations,” QRC Chief Executive Michael Roche said.
Roche said that while QRC recognised that there was general political agreement that future operations should not have a 100 per cent FIFO workforce where there are nearby resources communities, the concept of 100 per cent FIFO mines is a "huge furphy".
“I understand that only two coal mines in all of the Bowen Basin have ever been granted approval for a 100 percent FIFO operational workforce, but even at those two mines, in any month, around 1000 local workers and contractors provide services to the mines,” Roche said.
Roche also said the QRC’s submission made it clear that there should not be retrospective changes for existing operations.
“Retrospective changes to conditioning of resource projects would be a huge sovereign risk issue for the state,” he said.
“These conditions were approved at a very different time for the sector, when attracting skilled employees was proving extremely difficult.
“Flexible workforce arrangements are essential to secure the resources sector’s long-term future and the sourcing of labour should continue to be determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into account proximity to local towns, the availability of skilled labour and the competition for that labour.
“The overwhelming majority of resources sector operations in Queensland employ a mix of residential and long-distance commuting workers and will continue to do so
“Long-distance commuting extends our sector’s benefits to more Queenslanders, and a regulatory approach could threaten the economic viability of current projects and be a deterrent to future resources investment in Queensland.”
The Queensland Government is undertaking a review of fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) mines where the operation is located near a resource town or regional community.
The review will examine existing 100% FIFO workforce approvals, as well as those mines where there is a predominantly FIFO workforce (90% or higher). The panel will also examine the economic impact of FIFO work practices in regional resource communities and also the communities where the FIFO workers live.
In its submission to the inquiry, the CFMEU said it is deeply concerned about impacts of the rapid growth of long-distance commuting and compulsory FIFO, including the discrimination against local workers in regional areas, decline of population, economic activity and social amenity in regional communities, and punishing rosters leading to fatigue, family breakdown and mental illness.
“Where companies once built towns to support their operations creating thriving communities through regional Queensland, they now show little interest in or loyalty to those towns and communities that have supported them and supplied labour to them for generations,” the CFMEU said.
The CFMEU wants to see compulsory 100% FIFO operations immediately discontinued and no new licenses specifying 100% FIFO workforces be approved.
It also wants FIFO workers be given the opportunity and financial incentives to relocate their families to regional areas in driving distance of their place of work.
The union also recommended that a tax be introduced on beds in worker camps to be paid by mine operators and/or camp owners to local and state governments in recognition of services and infrastructure provided.
Meanwhile, Isaac Council said while it does not opposed to FIFO and DIDO, it is concerned that workers choices are being removed through mandated FIFO practices which effectively exclude the local labour market.
“Currently the FIFO populations of host communities are not considered in decisions regarding the funding and provision of essential services, including health and emergency,” the council said.
“This often leads to lack of capacity of these services to keep up with demand.Services within Isaac LGA communities are designed and funded to service a residential population of 24,755. In reality, however, these services cater to 45% more population than they are designed for when considered in the context of the full-time equivalent population, inclusive of FIFO and DIDO workers.”