The increasing reliance on Fly In, Fly Out workers is making it significantly harder to deliver the essential services needed in remote communities, Frontier Services told a Federal Inquiry today.
The enormous salaries on offer to FIFO workers in the mining sector has made it incredibly difficult to recruit professional counsellors, nurses and family support workers in these remote locations where Frontier Services works.
Living costs have skyrocketed for families, small business and service providers in the towns affected. At the same time, the FIFO workers themselves are losing their connection to community and family.
“There is disconnection from community. People flying in and flying out fit less in the community to which they originally belonged, and barely in the community to which they come,” Frontier Services National Director Rosemary Young said at a public hearing in Sydney for the inquiry into FIFO.
“Further, the communities which have become FIFO bases are faced with highly disproportionate costs, partly driven by the totally disproportionate salaries available to those working in these industries in this way. Small businesses cannot be staffed and community services are struggling.”
In Queensland and Western Australia, Frontier Services has found it exceptionally difficult to keep staff.
“We recruit and relocate staff to the Pilbara and to parts of Queensland, and lose them within weeks, despite, in many cases, providing housing and salaries higher than those we can offer in other locations. It is extremely difficult for us to employ carers in our In Home and Remote Family Care programs, where we can only pay a very small salary, when carers’ peers can earn well over $100,000, unskilled and unqualified, in mining jobs.”
One of the biggest challenges is the drain on skilled workers from small communities to “boom” areas.
“During the recent floods in Charleville, our Patrol Minister there, a Senior SES Chaplain, reported that the challenges were exacerbated compared to previous years by the absence of locals, who had been the mainstay of the SES in past, owing to their absence working elsewhere in the oil and gas fields.”
Frontier Services called for a greater commitment to building community in areas affected by FIFO.
“We believe that policy and tax drivers should be in place, where they can, to encourage the mining companies to establish permanent community where families can interact, and normal society endure.”
“We know that communities rise up and disappear again and that it requires a significant investment in infrastructure to provide a settled workforce for the period of resource extraction. (But) Frontier Services takes the view that such communities are essential, because without the connection of community, life is somehow devalued.”