A Federal Government inquiry has recommended mining companies consider getting fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers to sign ‘social contracts’ promising good and proper behaviour.
After an 18 month investigation into the impacts of FIFO on Australian life, the Federal parliamentary committee revealed its findings in Cancer of the Bush or Salvation for our Cities?. It found communities in rural areas believe the workers contributed to violence, predatory behaviour and alcohol and drug use in their towns.
The report also highlighted major areas needed change, and identified an “us versus them” mentality that troubled communities and created divisions between locals and FIFO workers.
Communities in the north-west of Western Australia host some 90,000 FIFO workers, and these communities are desperately in need on improved social integration – one way to achieve this, it suggested, would be to get all FIFO workers sign social contracts. Such contracts would require workers commit to responsible behaviour when on and off duty, as well as improve integration between miners and host towns.
WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls, said yesterday that while the drunken antics of FIFO workers remains a big issue, social contracts are not the answer. “I dare say that type of thing would happily be signed by the good people and the people that carry on like dills, which I think is the minority, would probably sign it anyway and not change their behaviour,” he said.
“What solves the problem is having less FIFO workers and you're only going to have less FIFO workers if we can get the liveability, the amenity . . . all of those things in the Pilbara right,” Grylls added.
Port Hedland mayor Kelly Howlett, who is standing for Labor against Grylls, agreed that enforcing the contracts would be difficult. She said bringing people together in the community would be a more practical solution.
Report committee chairman Tony Windsor, who tabled the document in Parliament yesterday, said that while FIFO was not a new practice, it was now eroding the liveability of regional communities. The impact on the families and children of FIFO workers also needs to be investigated further after mixed evidence from the public, which ranged from little effect, to devastating consequences for those family members left at home.