Pilbara business groups hit back after Rio FIFO report

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Rio workers’ hard hats.
Camera IconRio workers’ hard hats. Credit: WA News, Michael Wilson

Leaders from two Pilbara chambers of commerce have emphasised the damaging effects of fly-in, fly-out work on the region after Rio Tinto released a report championing the economic benefits of FIFO work to other regional areas.

The report, commissioned by Rio, found the miner’s regional FIFO program, which includes more than 2230 workers, injected $199.4 million into the economies of regional towns outside the Pilbara in 2018 — up $14.7 million on the last reported figures from 2016.

It also found the program facilitated $547.9 million of spending in other regions and indirectly supported a further 1269 jobs.

Karratha and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry acting chief executive Tanya Dodd said while she appreciated Rio supporting other regional economies by sourcing FIFO workers from country areas instead of Perth, employing FIFO workers in the Pilbara should be a last resort.

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“I am clear on the point that it is only needed where Karratha cannot fill the skills shortage with our own workers,” she said.

“There is a diverse and highly skilled workforce in Karratha.

“Rio Tinto should continue their efforts to recruit locally first.”

A Pilbara Inland Chamber of Commerce and Industry spokesman said bringing FIFO workers in from other parts of regional WA did not change the damaging effects of the lifestyle on individuals or the Pilbara as a whole.

“We think they’ve been innovative with the concept and it has its positives, but the issues around FIFO remain,” he said.

“It means so many people, mainly blokes, have to be away from their families on a two-week-on, one-week-off basis, and we see how that impacts on the social fabric of the community.”

“There are pros and cons, but fundamentally we don’t think it shifts the harm of FIFO from the Pilbara’s criticisms of that.”

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said the company was delivering for WA’s regional economies by providing jobs and supporting local businesses and community groups.

“We are proud to be contributing to these increasingly vibrant regional communities by helping to share the employment and economic benefits of Rio Tinto’s world-class iron ore operations in the Pilbara across the State,” he said.

The Rio regional FIFO program flies workers based in Derby, Broome, Exmouth, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Busselton and Albany to eight of the company’s mining operations in the Pilbara via direct charter flights.

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