Australia has a 2 tier work system as far as employees go. For those who dont know much of the mining industry works on fly in/fly out basis. That is employees are flown from major cities to remote locations, stay there for a few weeks (rosters vary widely, from week on week off to much longer.
The system was originally started to service genuinely remote regions without existing towns nearby, before then companies would actually build towns from scratch if they needed to.
The town I live in is a mining town built to service gold and nickel deposits in the area. The system of fi/fo was great in that it let companies get away with building donga style accommodation which allowed greater profits to be made. However the cheaper option is now coming back to bite them on the bum.
AMID the red dust and muggy heat of Karratha, the mood is poisonous. It’s the locals versus the FIFOs – or the “bumblebees”, as the multitudes of yellow-shirted, fly-in fly-out resources industry workers are known
I prefer to call them blowflies, they fly in, take the money, they piss off again.
More below the fold,,,
Now, backed by unions flexing their muscles under the Rudd government’s new workplace laws, some of these angry workers suddenly have the power to shut down Karratha, the remote Pilbara town that generates a big chunk of the nation’s economic growth and will be at the epicentre of the next wave of major jobs-generating projects.
This will be a huge test for the Rudd government, they can effectively cause massive inflation and derail the economy if they pander more to the overpaid blowflies they have allowed to take over.
It’s lucky the outspoken federal Liberal MP for the area, Barry Haase, wasn’t there. He refers to some of the FIFOs as “pathetic whingers” and “the joke of our north”, particularly the 1600 workers who downed tools at Woodside’s $12 billion Pluto gas project last week because they insist on staying in the same room each time they arrive for a shift.
It is “un-Australian”, he says, for workers earning up to $150,000 a year and living in airconditioned comfort to go on strike because they find it inconvenient to move a few personal effects once a month
Yup the poor precious dears are being told their rooms will be used by others while they are off shift, allowing the company to use a room 100% of the time rather than only 50%. This would leave the poor petals having to lock stuff away when they left their rooms each swing…
The workers who stay at Karratha’s Gap Ridge accommodation village get Foxtel in their rooms and have the use of swimming pools, tennis courts and a bar with flat-screen television sets. The apartments are serviced and all meals are free.
“Thirty years ago, workers up here lived in very basic un-airconditioned dongas with a single bed and no toilet or shower in their rooms,” Pope says. “The strike is an insult to the rest of the community when you have up to 10 people sharing a four-bedroom house (in Karratha) just to pay the rent.”
Absolutely true, it is impossible to live in town without a combined 6 figure income…
To some, the apparent triviality at the heart of the Woodside dispute, which is threatening to flare up again within days, is akin to the infamous case of the Robe River iron ore workers taking industrial action in the mid-1980s because several flavours of ice cream were not available in the canteen and there were no back scrubbers in the showers.
The culture of entitlement has gone to extremes, from shared rooms with communal bathrooms, to single rooms with shared bathrooms to single rooms with their own en suite. Food has gone from “fitters and turners” (fit it in a pot and turn it into shit) to 3-4 star dining.
I thought it was a rumour until I saw it. I was working in the kitchen at Telfer goldmine when we were threatened with a strike because we ran out of vanilla ice cream…. On another occasion we were threatened with a strike because we put on t bone steak for breakfast as well as dinner that night. (“”whats this shit, Im not eating this again”..)
The story above deals with friction between fi/fos and local townies. Now Ive lived in and still have family in Karratha, its one of the most expensive places to live in Australia. I worked on the last lots of land released in town (more than 10 years ago), and it was massively expensive then.
Rentals (if you can find them) are ridiculously priced, dont believe me?
Now the blame for the stupid pricing falls squarely on both the state and federal governments. Federal because they introduced native title, which effectively meant any property developer would have to pay go away money to dozens of people before land could be zoned residential, and state for washing their hands of land releases as “too hard”…
This so-called greed was underscored by the Maritime Union of Australia’s boast this week that it had secured pay rises of $50,000 over three years for workers at shipping company Total Marine Services in a deal not linked to productivity gains and struck under the threat of industrial action.
Dont get me wrong the state government loves fi/fos, after all it lets them concentrate on spending in the cities they love, and leaving the bush to wither on the vine. They can pander to the city dwellers despite the money being generated in the rural areas.
Still Im sure Kevin 07 and Jooolia are waiting to assist any moment now??
Gillard, the Workplace Relations Minister, declined to comment on the threat of possible future strikes in the Pilbara.
One Pluto construction worker, who wants to be known only as “Doug”, says he and his workmates are angry that they effectively work 12-hour shifts and only get paid for 10 hours. The other two hours, he says, are spent getting to and from the Pluto construction site.
Which is different to a city worker being stuck commuting and hour a day how??? Dry you eyes sweetheart you getting tear stains on your lace dress…
Another Pluto worker, “William”, says the strike is about much more than “motelling” – the policy being introduced by Woodside that means workers are assigned a different accommodation unit at the beginning of each four-week shift in Karratha. Woodside says the policy will allow it to house more workers at the accommodation village as it ramps up the Pluto project.
“It (motelling) is a nuisance,” William says. “It goes back to the days of the caveman when you would live in the one cave and you would draw paintings on the wall.
“This is about standing up to them, or we will just get walked on again. If the Polish people had stood up to the Nazis when they were invading, they might have been able to repel them.”
Id like to apologise to anyone Polish or with a functioning brain cell. To try and draw an analogy between Hitler and not being assigned a permanent room defies any leap of the imagination…
My father took my sisters 3 kids for a lunch treat of chips/soft drink and chicken nuggets each, the cost $100.00.
Yet the Fi/fos complain they are treated badly whenever their bed is slightly lumpy.
They make their money in the bush then take it all back to the city to spend. The locals end up paying massively inflated prices and have substandard services, because small businesses can’t employ anyone for less than 70K per year.
When Im elected emperor for life fi/fo will stop tomorrow… Companies can whinge. The workers can either move or take lower paid positions in the city environment they love so much.