9 September 2014

The Great FIFO Debate

The Great FIFO Debate The Great FIFO Debate The Great FIFO Debate 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 either way.

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 story.

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 town.


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 everyone. 

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.