The pandemic has made border patrol extraordinarily tight worldwide, and the travelling requirements have made it difficult for fly-in fly-out mining workers in Australia. Companies have been encouraged to adapt and hire people from the locality to compensate for the lack of a workforce.
Being a fly-in, fly-out worker has always been a tough job, and the current state of the pandemic has added even more pressure on these workers. This will discuss whether or not Australia’s fly-in, fly-out mining workforce is sustainable in the future.
A Brief Overview
Australia’s fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers have been the life force keeping the mining industry stable during the majority of the pandemic.
After a year, however, FIFO workers have struggled to deal with travel bans, border patrol, and very tight restrictions that have hindered them from working and making ends meet.
Due to the constant shifts of quarantine requirements, the government exerted all its efforts to reduce the number of cases, meaning that FIFO workers needed to withstand long periods away from their friends, family, and home to work.
Impacts On Workers
Miners in Australia are considered essential, so they are allowed to operate, unlike most other businesses affected by the pandemic.
However, due to the rising cases and variants, protocols and quarantine requirements have made it harder for the workers to recuperate and adjust to the current working conditions.
Not only is it affecting their schedules and work hours, but studies suggest that the current working conditions also affect the FIFO worker’s mental health. FIFO employees’ emotional well-being has long been a source of controversy. Some workers are used to it because it has been their way of life for centuries. Others, on the other hand, find it difficult to adjust.
Furthermore, suppose one crew member of a team turns out to be positive. In that case, the entire crew with him will also have to isolate and stop work for some time. This just keeps adding to the difficulties of being a FIFO worker.
Challenges For The Mining Industry
On the contrary, even if the mining sector faces many challenges, it has been doing exceptionally well throughout the pandemic. The high demand for raw metal ores such as gold and iron has added pressure to the mining sector to increase its workforce and productivity in order to capitalize on the high demand for these raw materials. This also led to an increase in quality mining equipment.
Major employers took note of this and opted to give incentives to workers and influence them to move in closer to the worksite with their families. Even though it looks pretty tempting to workers, it still puts workers in a challenging position, especially those with children and spouses who work in different states.
If they would be able to move in for the sake of work, this does not give a lifetime guarantee that their move will be incentivized just because the mining industry is booming during this time.
What happens when the market runs dry? This question discourages many FIFO workers from pushing through with their employers’ offer of moving to a different state.
Shortage In Manpower
The workforce shortage in the current mining industry could be directed to many things. The 2012 mining crash, also labelled as the end of the mining resources boom, helped keep the country afloat against the global financial crisis. It could also be directed at the all-time low enrollment of mining engineering and geology courses, which lowers the number of potential high-value workers.
Not only that, but the nature of the industry itself already means that jobs are not permanent and secure to begin with. Miners are in high demand due to a persistent lack of mining-related abilities.
The Future of FIFO Miners
The pandemic’s destructive effects have been felt worldwide, making many people rethink their current occupation and try to pursue different types of jobs to make ends meet. It is no secret that being a FIFO is a challenging and demanding job, but is this one of the reasons why people turn away from it?
Not necessarily, but due to the nature of the job and how hard it is to cope with the constant changes in its market, people would prefer to find jobs that best fit their schedules and do not require travel. This will help them avoid protocols that are very difficult to deal with.
Furthermore, FIFO workers and employees think it is best if the government and the heads of these major mining companies look into whether or not the FIFO System of employment is still a feasible way to attract new workers.
The main priority they need to focus on is making a business model that isn’t as challenging or difficult to adapt. This way, they can attract fresh talent and new workers into the field from their locality. Moreover, they need to improve their current business structure to make it entice young people to consider industrial mining as a legitimate career path.
Most importantly, the current state of the mining industry should also cater to balancing the work and life of the people they are hiring. This will help the workers not to consider searching for another career path. If they wish to stay alive, significant changes from within the industry need to be addressed. That is the only hope for the FIFO business model to remain relevant.