'FIFO the way to go'

Tuesday, 5th February, 2013

By Kurtis J Eichler

The Minerals Council of Australia says 'fly-in, fly-out' workers are good for mining towns and that they have the evidence to prove it.

The Council yesterday took its first steps to offset the pending release of a Federal Government report on the pros and cons of flyin, fly-out (FIFO) workers.

It's released a demographic study outlining growth in the population of mining towns over the last five years and points to a higher standard of living in these areas.

The report, using Census data, describes FIFO workers as "part of the solution to the challenge of getting workers to remote workplaces".

The study of nine mining regions - not including Broken Hill - claimed to show there were more families in mining towns than in rural centres.

Minerals Council CEO, Mitch Hooke, said it dispelled the myth that FIFO workers were bad for towns.

"This punches a hole in claims that, with the increase in fly-in-fly out employees, mining regions are not increasing in population size," Mr Hooke said.

"Mining is not hollowing out the regions in which it operates - it is boosting incomes, attracting families and reducing unemployment.

"Employees are flying in, flying out and also moving to the mining regions."

But Mayor Wincen Cuy said that while FIFO workers spent money on accommodation, meals and social activities during their stint in the city, it wasn't the best option.

"I think a stable community is quite obviously the preferred option; that you would have a stable entity which brings an increase in population and a greater
demand for services," Mayor Cuy said.

"Quite obviously, from a mining point of view, if you are unable to source your workforce from that community you have to look at the next option.

"I think that is the view shared by our current mines."

Barrier Industrial Council president, Danny O'Connor, was sceptical of the claims made by Mr Hooke, saying FIFO arrangements did not have any benefits for towns.

"Their wages go back to their bank account and their bank account is wherever they come from," Mr O'Connor said.

"Imagine if they were all fly-in, fly-out in the heyday when there were 6000 people on the mines.

"The place would be a ghost town. It would be a big hole in the ground with a couple of pubs."

Perilya's chief executive, Paul Arndt, said the company "to some extent" used FIFO workers at its Potosi project, but would not comment directly on the Minerals Council's report.

Mr Arndt did say, however, that there were pros and cons in hiring FIFO employees.

"If you could hire from the community, that would be much better than just a fly-in, fly-out arrangement."

While there were economic benefits to employing temporary workers, it often resulted in the loss of the community spirit that came with residing in a town permanently, he said.