The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) is pleased to make a submission to the House Standing Committee on Regional Australia for consideration in the Inquiry into fly-in fly-out (FIFO) and drive-in drive-out (DIDO) in the Australian workforce. The submission primarily focuses on the operational workforce of the Australian minerals industry.

Minerals industry companies and their employees have embraced FIFO/DIDO in recent years as a viable way to develop new projects and increase minerals output whilst responding to skilled labour shortages without disruptive relocations for workers and their families.

In addition, many MCA members have established elaborate practices around FIFO and DIDO to manage health and safety, family separation, social activity whilst on site etc., to improve the work/life balance for employees on long distance commutes.

However, it would be entirely wrong to assume that long distance commuting is the one preferred option of minerals industry employers and employees. Daily commuting remains the predominant practice and the preferred alternative where a local workforce is available. Minerals companies continue to invest considerable amounts of money into hard and soft infrastructure in communities that adjoin their projects.

In a competitive labour market for skilled mine workers it is important for mining companies to implement initiatives to reduce labour turnover. Smart employers are offering their workforce a variety of options with both daily commute and FIFO/DIDO options, high quality amenities and a variety of shift roster patterns. Consequently, it is expected that as the workforce continues to grow, so too will the number of employees engaged on a FIFO/DIDO basis increase.

It must also be recognised that FIFO and DIDO allow companies to widen their recruitment options in tight labour markets. These additional alternatives provide opportunities for jobseekers living in non-mining communities where there are few local employment opportunities, thus contributing to the economy of those communities as well as the communities at the mine sites.

Long distance commuting is not just an issue related to the minerals sector. It is a practice used across the entire economy. In fact there has been a paradigm shift in the Australian workforce’s attitude to relocation for work. FIFO/DIDO offers access to work at remote and regional locations without the need to relocate family and social networks.

One of the greatest unknowns related to FIFO/DIDO is accurate data on the quantum of workers involved nationally across all industries where they originate from and where they work. Until we have these data it is not possible for any sensible policy response to be developed.

The minerals industry is a significant contributor to community infrastructure and housing in regional Australia. Source communities benefit greatly from FIFO/DIDO workers as the economic and employment benefits are spread more widely outside mining regions. Further, it is acknowledged that Governments face increasing difficulties in providing cost effective service delivery in mining communities. It will generally be more cost effective for governments to meet the infrastructure and services provision needs of increased mining populations through these populations being located in existing coastal centres rather than in more dispersed communities. Therefore, governments have the choice between significantly expanding service provision in these communities for increased residential workforces or meeting increased industry workforce needs through greater use of FIFO/DIDO arrangements and drawing on existing infrastructure and services in larger centres.

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