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Doubled FIFO rosters hailed as a success during COVID

BHP FIFO workers
FIFO workers

Mining companies have celebrated an overwhelmingly positive result after extending work rosters in response to the deadly disease.

Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) and Gascoyne Resources are glad they significantly adapted fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers to the worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The proponents each doubled FIFO rosters in response to state border closures that were designed to help contain the virus. Namely, FIFO workers have been working one month on and two weeks off, instead of the usual two weeks on and one week off.

Working four months in a row

In some cases FMG even extended FIFO rosters up to 16 weeks in-a-row.

“Temporary roster changes certainly helped in the initial stages but we wound those down as quickly as we could,” FMG CEO Elizabeth Gaines said according to News Limited.

Gains revealed her employer had learnt many lessons when the pandemic first hit the China office at the beginning of 2020.

“We had already been dealing with COVID in our Chinese operations as early as January, so we were very prepared for events [in Australia],” she said.

“We were able to arrange family accommodation in Perth and Port Hedland … [and] some of the distancing and health measures we put in place have also led to better hygiene processes across sites which has also been a good long-term outcome.”

Size does not matter

Gascoyne Resources believes extending FIFO rosters works well for companies of all sizes.

“We do not have the resources of a Rio [Tinto], BHP or Fortescue,” CEO Richard Hay told the media outlet.

“We have managed a strong turnaround. Of course, having longer rosters helped and it does mean you need fewer people.”

On a national scale, mining and energy exports are expected to top a record-high $296 billion by the end of June 2021 despite the COVID-19 recession, according to the Office of the Chief Economist.

Exports hit record high

Iron ore, liquefied natural gas and base metals each performed well. Coal prices have recovered and lithium exports are expected to jump 400 per cent to about $5 billion in the long-term according to the office’s latest resources and energy quarterly report.

Hay suggested other mining companies could have easily exploited the pandemic to increase profit but, thankfully, multiple employers have returned FIFO rosters to pre-pandemic arrangements.

“In a draconian business world, doubling people’s rosters probably would lead to greater profitability but that would be taking advantage of our people and we would just never do that,” he said.

Thousands relocate

Several proponents have encouraged their interstate workers to temporarily relocate. The industry-wide push prompted more than 50 per cent of 5000 FIFO workers living on the East Coast to move their families to Western Australia, according to the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA (CME).

“Overall it has been very successful,” WACME CEO Paul Everingham said. “We were in daily contact with the mining executives as well as state and federal politicians trying to figure out logistics and solutions to flight schedules. There was a lot of anxiety about what would happen logistically but people wanted to do their bit and keep their mines open.”

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