9 September 2014
The Great FIFO Debate
In the past couple of weeks I`ve read a few articles that I
regularly and quite deliberately ignore. After being sent the links
from no less than 7 different people, my resolve dissipated.
Let me preface this by saying that the Australian media have a
propensity to latch on to the smallest piece of inaccurate
information and turn it into a story of epic proportions together
with firsthand accounts and scientific evidence of aliens. The
article I want to discuss may be a perfect account of what was said
or it may be a 2 second audio grab turned into a novel. This stands
This week's pet project in `news` circles has been the evils of
FIFO workers and their impact on the local community. More
specifically, should all mining workers live locally to the
operation or in the closest possible town.
I had a pretty strong reaction to this article. And more than a
few of you have as well.
I felt vilified as a member of the mining community and as
someone who works closely with workforce planners and HR
professionals. But it`s been more than a few years since FIFO
affected my day to day life. If I`m honest I chose not to continue
working FIFO when my wife and I expanded our family because that
was the decision that worked for us. So instead of speaking on
authority on a subject that I lack recent exposure, I`ve spent the
last week throwing the question to you. To the FIFO, the DIDO, the
small towners and the `I`m pretty sure I live in my 4WD`ers. To the
planners, the decision makers and the average Joe`s to see if we
can add some balance to a complicated discussion. And here is what
you`ve had to say.
I love living in a small town
Living in the community that supports the mine means I see my
family, I get to play sport, I have a sense of stability and
belonging that I didn`t feel when I was flying in and out.
There was one mine in my home town
After being made redundant along with 12 of my mates, I couldnt
decide what to do. The wife has a great job that she loves, the
kids are happy in school and I didn`t want to be the one to pick
them up and drop them into a new town. But what am I supposed to do
when I`m trained to do a very specific job? I FIFO and I found a
roster that works for my family. I am a happy FIFO employee. End of
FIFO was the only option for my team
After a rather tense negotionation with the local council about
the development of housing close to site it was clear that we
weren`t going to get anywhere. They had demanded that the 60
employees I had budgeted for needed to live in an establised town.
They would contribute to the local community and they would commute
the distance to the mine. After all, they were being paid well. Why
should anyone care about the conditions they faced?! The problem
was the closest town was a two and a half hour drive away. Talk
about a long day! With absolutely no support from the local council
we found that chartered FIFO and a small camp arrangement allowed
workers to spend much less time commuting and allowed us to be
competitive in the recruitment market. It was a complicated
approvals process but a necessary stand.
Been there. Done that.
I once was suckered in to purchasing property in a town that`s
only industry was a single mine. The company owned a lot of houses
in the area and I thought it was a reasonably safe investment. When
the mine went into care and maitenance I said goodbye to nearly
half the value of my house. If they had of been set up in a camp
instead of permanent structures I doubt we`d have so many angry
locals who were stuck with the remains of what used to be a busy
There really has been a phenomenal and emotional response to
this article and to sum it up in the only way I know how, if it was
a simple problem there would be a simple solution.
Mining as an industry is constantly evolving. It is diverse.
Every situation is entirely different. What works for one Company,
one mine, one town or one person, doesn`t necessarily work for
What I`m suggesting is we stop vilifying each other and stop
oversimplfying a complicated matter. Let`s open the dialogue and
continue the debate.