The Australian mining industry had experienced a severe downturn between 2012 and 2016, a situation that shrank its jobs to some 60,000 nationwide, leaving a very slim chance for anyone to get a full-time work. But with the current recovery of the sector, that scenario has become a history. And Aussies are paying no attention to the jobs even with its giant paycheck. Why?
Australian news site Sunshine Coast Daily reported that mining companies, especially in Queensland and Western Australia are “begging Australians to come and work for them,” with some of the companies hoping to bring in immigrant workers to fill their growing job openings.
Comments posted by some Aussies suggest that workers are not happy with the paycheck, saying it’s “a wage growth shortage, not a skilled labor shortage.” But that’s not the case in its entirety.
Workers turn down the huge salaries for work-life balance
Since October 2017, the energy, resource and mining sector has experienced the highest growth in job ads, which has now grown to about 32% higher than it experienced last year or four times more than average job ads in the country.
Paul Everingham, the CEO of Chamber of Minerals and Energy, Western Australia has supported a migration agreement as a viable route to fight the severe shortage of skills in the mining region of Goldfields. Everingham said the Kalgoorlie-Boulder mining sector is at crisis point, with over 1000 vacancies hurling its workforce to doom.
“You can’t sugar coat that – they’re available now and they’re not being filled, so however you can get them (workers),” Everingham said.
Thousands of ads for jobs currently placed by the Western Australia mining industry range from university-trained engineers to tradesmen to cleaners. The jobs are on fly-in fly-out or FIFO basis. That’s where the problem lies.FIFO workers actually earn huge salaries but the challenge of having no work-life balance restrain people from taking the job.
Working FIFO in Australia puts your mental strength to test
Typically, FIFO workers have higher rates of suffering from depression or committing suicide due to loneliness. It also holds troubling records of alcoholism and workplace bullying. In 2015, the government of Western Australia funded a 10-month research on FIFO workforce in view of upgrading the work conditions to encourage recruits but the result is yet to yield any positive effect. Many miners refused to be open due to the stigma their job has around mental health. Hence, only about 11% of those with mental issues get professional help.
The state’s FIFO community in March cried out that the work conditions have actually worsened. During the campaign, Peter Miller, the father of Rhys Connor; a FIFO worker who took his life about five years ago, said: “hardly anything has changed”.
“Companies talk about ‘zero harm’ on their sites, yet we have FIFO workers dying. Every couple of weeks you hear of a different death, it’s continuing,” Miller told PethNow.
New mines are currently being built
Despite the very public dark side of the industry, there are still ongoing investments and expansion in the industry by some of the world’s largest mining companies. Fortescue, BHP and Rio Tinto started building new mines in Western Australia this month. At least 5000 mining jobs will be created when the sites are completed. The companies have no plans to minimize their expansion projects, whether the workers come from Australia or not.