Union calls FIFO camp tax breaks into question

The CFMEU has called for scrutiny of tax breaks for miners who utilise temporary accommodation camps to house workers, and released a new report on the issues for camps and communities.

The report entitled Camp Life looks at the results of surveys taken by the CFMEU, illustrating the concerns of commuting workers, whether DIDO or FIFO.

The construction union has also urged the federal government to use the upcoming tax white paper to review arrangements that benefit miners setting up FIFO camps close to towns rather than investing in local housing or allowing workers the choice to live in the local community.

CFMEU Queensland district president Steve Smyth said FIFO certainly has a place in the resources industry, but the situation with overuse of FIFO accommodation was “out of control”.

“The unrestrained growth of camps in mining regions has been fuelled by tax benefits for mining companies who choose itinerant workforces over local workforces,” Smyth said.

“The result is that mineworkers usually have no choice but to live in a camp controlled by their employer.

“Standards of accommodation, food, cleanliness and facilities vary wildly and workers have no freedom to engage with local communities, even when they have friends and family nearby.”

The report showed that only 49 per cent of commuting mineworkers interviewed in Queensland thought they had good access to medical facilities in camp.

30 per cent of workers were found to be “hot-bedding” where workers on different shifts share a room and the same bed, albeit using the facility while the other is at work.

Workers also reported an onerous level of control and security by company staff and camp management, with 47 per cent saying they felt their employer was very controlling even when they were in accommodation.

Smyth said workers need real choice about whether they stay in a camp or rent in share accommodation in town or move to local communities with their families.

“No company should be able to dictate where their workers live or how they commute,” he said.

“FIFO arrangements can take their toll on the mental health of some workers, as has been shown in the recent WA inquiry into FIFO suicides.

“The Federal Government must put an end to the tax breaks which give companies an incentive to build camps and prioritise FIFO arrangements at the expense of communities.”

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