The fly-in fly-out (FIFO) job contract, an employment arrangement created specifically for long-distance work done in remote locations, is a labour fixture that is relatively unique to Australia. As many as 60,000 to 65,000 FIFO workers are currently deployed in fields as diverse as construction, mechanics, logistics, and transport. But the undisputed leader among the sectors populated by FIFOs is the mining sector, all at once a historically, economically, and culturally significant industry in the country.
Since the gold rushes of the 1850s, Australia’s mining activities have yielded sizable export incomes, population growth in hot spots like many of the mining towns in Western Australia, and a large pool of skilled labour. According to the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety’s Western Australian Mineral and Petroleum Statistics Digest 2017-18, the state’s mining and petroleum industries had a combined value of $115 billion and netted a handsome 41% of Australia’s total merchandise export income for the calendar year. The mining life has also been the subject of cultural tributes in movies like Nickel Queen, which was released in 1971 and depicted the Poseidon stock market bubble.
But what of potential FIFO workers seeking out mining jobs in WA or other ore-rich remote locations? What are the indicators that they will benefit from the state’s resurgence in mining, and find success in this part of Australia’s labour system? If you know someone who is thinking to enlist as FIFO worker in the mining sector, or are thinking of doing so yourself by applying to mining recruitment agencies in Perth, here are the benefits of exploring such an arrangement.
- Wide availability of jobs. Recent data from the SEEK Group shows that the mining, resource, and energy sector put out 32% more job ads in 2018 than it did in 2017. WA’s mining industry is also a prolific employer, with more than 112,008 labourers enlisted toward mining activities from 2017 to 2018. If you’re narrowing it down to locations and probability of employment, then you’ll have good chances applying for FIFO mining jobs in WA.
- Profits to be made. Seekers of mining jobs in Perth or in other key mining locations in WA may also hope for a trickle-down of the state’s current mining value of $88 billion. Paychecks for FIFO mine workers can go all the way up to $150,000, signalling both a resurgence in the mining industry and an improved capacity to reward mine workers.
- A comfortable life on the worksite. What’s more, many FIFO job contracts also come with accommodation and daily meals. Labourers who like the solace and sense of routine will be able to adjust to life near the mine. Entire donga villages have been built around the FIFO way of life, and the mining site may be within access to utilities, adequate healthcare services, and even its fair share of nearby restaurants, pubs, and entertainment centres.
- A sense of community in dignified labour. Many labourers who choose FIFO mining contracts over the related drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) contracts appreciate being relieved of the long commute, having a lot of time for themselves, and being afforded the opportunity to focus their energies at work. So long as they remain in good physical, emotional, and mental health and can achieve a work-life balance, FIFO mine workers can enjoy being in a community of like-minded, hardworking, and ambitious individuals.
- Time spent with families during the “off” weeks of the swing. The most common arrangement in a FIFO mining contract is two weeks on-site and one full week “off,” or back at home. For FIFO mine workers who are dedicated parents or partners, this week off is an important time to refocus themselves on their families. Though it is admittedly difficult to be away for long periods at a time and feel as if one is missing out on the important family moments, some FIFO workers prefer having that one week to rest, relax, and spend uninterrupted quality time with their loved ones.
For all the opportunity that FIFO work brings, however, there are some failings in the system that Australian employers must work to fix. The working environment is under scrutiny for problems such as increased loneliness, depression, and alcoholism. To date, the labour sector has dispatched solutions such as an alternate-week swing (1 week at home and 1 week away, as opposed to 1 week at home and 2 weeks away), campaigns against alcoholism, and enhanced guidelines for supporting employees. All in all, it may be an exciting time to revisit the mining sector as a FIFO worker. If you do so, you have a chance to reward Australia’s national economy and mining prestige—as well as your own livelihood and career mobility. Best of luck in these continuing pursuits!