The construction of a temporary workers’ camp near Boggabri made recruitment of FIFO workers an “easy option” for Whitehaven, even though there were many willing local workers who had recently lost their jobs, the Construction, Forestry, Mining, Energy Union’s Grahame Kelly said.
“Whitehaven should be giving priority to locals looking for work and the construction phase of Maules Creek is a great opportunity to start training local workers,” he said.
“A reliance on FIFO at Maules Creek should set off alarm bells throughout NSWʼs coal mining belt.”
FIFO workers are expected to be recruited to work at the mine, especially during the construction phase.
Recent redundancies include 106 from Downer EDI's Boggabri Coal and another 30 from Whitehaven.
Whitehaven managing director Paul Flynn said the local workforce would have to be supplemented by specialist contractors, most on a fly-in fly-out basis.
“From time to time we will need to rely on FIFO contractors (mainly from NSW) to supplement our local workforce,” he said.
“On an ongoing basis we will always use a contractor component in our operations.
“This is particularly the case with the development of our Maules Creek mine, which will require a workforce of up to 340 full-time equivalent employees and contractors during the 18-month construction phase.
“It would be almost impossible to find this many skilled employees locally for the relatively short time required – and that is where FIFO or DIDO have a role to play.
“As we move out of construction and into production at Maules Creek, we plan to quickly and successfully transition to a higher proportion of local employment as availability of skilled labour and training capacity allows.
“We will also be taking into consideration other pressures – such as housing availability.”
Kelly said there was a danger companies would increasingly rely on FIFO workers over local workers.
“Singleton is next in line for a camp if developers have their way – then weʼll suddenly find that our Hunter Valley mine operators canʼt find local skilled workers either and they have to fly them in,” he said.
“Camps have also been proposed at Gulgong and Werris Creek. FIFO is bad for communities, itʼs bad for families, itʼs bad for workers, itʼs bad for local economies. But the future for all mining operations in NSW is that local workforces will be gradually eroded by FIFO unless the state government acts to nip it in the bud.”
The CFMEU said it was calling on the NSW government to stop approving temporary worker accommodation villages until it has strong policies in place to manage fly-in fly-out.