Better conditions needed for FIFO

AN industry-wide agreement to create better living conditions for fly-in fly-out mine workers needed to be created, a parliamentary inquiry heard on Wednesday.

Assistant national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union Glenn Thompson told the House of Representatives inquiry into FIFO practices that the agreement should cover employees and contractors, create minimum standards for accommodation and recognise prior skills of job applicants.

He said the agreement also should create industry-specific guidelines for working hours to reduce the number of 12-hour shifts that can run every day for three weeks.

One example Mr Thompson gave for the need of such agreements was a 51-year-old man who died in a cabin at a Western Australian mine and was not found until a week after his death.

He said the government also needed to create a national engineering trust to develop a formal skill base for the mining industry.

Mr Thompson said issues such as isolation from local communities and their own families, alcoholism and violence were showing the current system was not working.

"The workers need to be connected with the communities which they work in," he said.

"The AMWU recommends that the government and industry develop enforceable minimum resident workforce requirements through mining licences (when granted).

"The key is training, re-training, and developing infrastructure for training, which will reduce the drain on other sectors.

"The resources sector uses skilled labour that was trained in other industries, but the reliance of FIFO on the importation on skilled labour - there has to be a mutual training benefit for all industries.

"If the sector wants to pick up workers during peak high demands, then training must be focused on developing skills workers can use on and off the mine."

Mr Thompson said the nature of the mining industry recruiting staff from other industries was likely to continue.

He said the boom in mining construction, particularly in Queensland and WA, did present opportunities but the government, industry and unions had to work together to find long-term solutions.