The recommendations of a Queensland parliamentary report into FIFO practices has been met with opposition from resource industry lobby groups.
The new report, tabled on Friday last week, suggested changes to the Anti-Discrimination Act (1991) to include location as a prohibited ground of discrimination, in order to prevent companies from exclusively hiring FIFO workers.
Inquiry chairman Jim Pearce said the “overwhelming message” was that a person should be able to choose where they live for work, without any requirements to live in a particular area determined by the employer.
“Some stakeholders suggested that when Caval Ridge and Daunia mines were approved to operate up to 100 per cent [FIFO] that it was the beginning of the end for job security across the region,” he said.
“It is clear to me that this inquiry has demonstrated the need for all resource companies to proactively demonstrate their social licence to operate which would start with ending ‘postcode discrimination’.
“Genuine choice means workers being able to make their own informed decision about where they live for work.
“Workers should also be given the choice about whether they live in an accommodation village or in a nearby resource community with their family.”
Deputy chair Michael Hart said the Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources Committee was “extremely cognisant of the sovereign risk involved” with recommending retrospective action to place limits on FIFO workforces.
“Instead, the committee seeks to encourage resource companies to both purchase locally and employ local workers where possible,” he said.
However, those words fell upon deaf ears in the resources lobbying community, with criticism from the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) and Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) on the prospect of changes to anti-discrimination laws.
QRC chief Michael Roche said the prospect of such legislative change was like “using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”, citing a recent survey of workers conducted by QRC as evidence that no change was required.
The survey of 1832 workers showed that four out of five respondents did not want to change their accommodation arrangements.
Of those who participated in the survey, 66 per cent of respondents were employed under FIFO arrangements, while the remainder were employed in residential roles.
The survey did not take in information about roster compression, or whether employees were employed in trades or office-based roles.
AMMA executive director Scott Barklamb disagreed with notions that workers should be allowed to have a choice of where to live in terms of FIFO or local arrangements, and said the proposed changes to anti-discrimination legislation would have a negative impact on Queensland businesses.
“Providing employees with a choice of where they live for work sounds fine in principle, but in practice the proposal would give rise to unwarranted lawsuits across Queensland workplaces, not just those in the resource industry,” he said.
“The review panel’s recommendations are under-considered and raise more questions than they answer.
“Today’s recommendations may be well intentioned, but they seem to have been drawn up with little knowledge of the resource industry and how it actually operates in Queensland.
“We encourage the Palaszczuk government to work with industry employers to understand leading industry practices on FIFO work and promote them more widely, and to not embark on additional heavy handed regulation enforced by more state and local government inspectors.”