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Stranded FIFO workers report working extended rosters

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Remote mine personnel have complained about employers increasing the number of days they are scheduled to work due to state border restrictions.

Thousands of fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers are unable to return home from the Pilbara region due to Western Australia’s latest hard border closure with Queensland and New South Wales.

‘Exhausted’

Instead of letting tired FIFO staff take their scheduled breaks, resources companies have allegedly required everyone affected to keep working without pause.

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) believes many mine workers are “exhausted”, and cannot keep working continuously until the State Government finally lifts border restrictions.

“Some have spent 10 months away from their families and have just gone back to regular living and travel arrangements,” CFMEU mining and energy WA secretary Greg Busson said in a public statement.

No relief

Busson revealed the hard border closure also means many FIFO workers cannot enter the Golden State and relieve their tired colleagues.

“[This] lockdown means that thousands of workers will not be able to return home at the scheduled end of their swing this week – at least until Friday – and the other crews cannot fly up to replace them,” he said.

He warns repeatedly extending FIFO rosters will further exacerbate worker fatigue and mental health challenges from a “year of disruption” and lengthier than usual periods away from home since the pandemic started.

“We are calling for employers to recognise the stress workers are under and provide additional support,” he said.

‘Many years to come’

CFMEU urged employers and the government to join union representatives for talks on how the industry can better manage FIFO rosters. The Australian Medical Association predicts coronavirus (COVID-19) will be “present with us everywhere in the world for many years to come.”

“This pandemic has been going for 18 months [and] we need to be able to sit down with government, employers and unions, and have agreed protocols in place for looking after FIFO workers affected by lockdowns,” Busson said.

‘Medium risk’

The WA Government still considers Queensland to be a “medium risk” after four new infections were reported across the Sunshine State.

Only the following travellers are allowed to enter WA:

  • active military personnel
  • senior government officials
  • transport freight or logistics providers
  • members of Commonwealth Parliament
  • those administering Commonwealth law
  • anyone with special approval from the state emergency coordinator
  • WA residents who need to return to their home state on compassionate grounds.

After entering the Golden State they still must self-quarantine for 14 days, and have an initial COVID-19 test within 48 hours plus on the 11th day after arriving.

‘Inconvenience’ acknowledged

State Premier Mark McGowan makes no apologies for taking a hard-line stance on border restrictions.

“I acknowledge these new border arrangements will cause inconvenience but we need to do everything necessary to protect the health of Western Australians,” he said in a public statement.

“Our experience is border controls work, and this will help stem the flow of unnecessary travel while our health teams are doing vital work in contact tracing and getting on top of our evolving situation in WA.”

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