Posts Tagged ‘FIFO’

Australia warned over mining job squeeze

July 1, 2011 1 comment

“Growing manpower shortages in Australia’s booming resources sector are weighing on productivity and could prompt some big companies to shift some operations to other countries, the industry’s key employer group has warned. Nearly 90 per cent of companies in Australia’s resources sector face problems recruiting workers, according to the Australian Mines and Metals Association. …

He urged the government of prime minister Julia Gillard to step up efforts to help tackle the labour shortages by further relaxing criteria – on everything from language abilities to length of stay – so that resource companies can bring more foreign workers into the country and boost skills training. At the moment it can be expensive and take a long time to get approval to bring in foreign workers.

Acknowledging the critical role of resources in Australia’s economy, the government this year launched a scheme to facilitate the entry of foreign workers to resources projects worth over A$2bn and allocated a substantial part of a $3bn package for skills training to resources sector jobs.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, June 30 2011


  • Interest in mining education on all levels is declining around the world. Highly skilled employees in the industry have historically been very mobile geographically, but various countries have stepped up the entry barriers to stimulate domestic employment levels.
  • For most jobs Australian companies are obliged to first search in the domestic market for a suitable candidate before being allowed to recruit international talent, following a strict and lengthy process.


  • Companies will not be able to move the production work to other countries, and will therefore probably mainly look to move the more skilled employees in project management and corporate functions to (regional) headquarters. A potential solution for shortages of on-site personnel for some companies could be to bring in more contract workers from abroad.
  • The shortage of employees will be one of the key themes of the development of the mining industry in Australia. The ability to recruit internationally and the skill in designing attractive FIFO rosters for the remote operations will determine the success of companies.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser |

BHP Coal Workers Open Door to Strike

June 3, 2011 Comments off

“BHP Billiton Ltd. faces the possibility of strike by thousands of coal workers in Australia’s resource-rich Bowen Basin following a vote by members of three unions. In a ballot that took place in recent days and was counted Friday, roughly 90% of workers voted to give their unions the right to call a strike, Stephen Smyth, district president of one of the three, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, told Dow Jones Newswires. Samantha Stevens, a spokeswoman for Melbourne-based BHP, confirmed the ballot supported a possible strike.

The company continues to meet with the unions to complete negotiations on a new labor agreement, she added, and the two sides have scheduled meetings through the end of July. ‘We continue to make solid progress and as such, industrial action would be premature,’ Ms. Stevens told Dow Jones.”

Source: Wall Street Journal, June 3 2011


  • BHP Billiton employs approximately 4,000 people in metallurgical coal operations and approximately 8000 in energy coal operations. In average across all of the companies operations the company has approximately as many contractors as own employees on-site.
  • This would not be the first time a strike at BHP’s coal operations takes place: in 2000 the employees at various mines stopped work. Prior to the changes that led to these strikes the company was perceived to be more friendly to unions than competitors.


  • BHP BMA is trying to gain greater flexibility in setting contracts for contract workers separate from the collective agreement and is at the same time trying to limit the power of unions in recruiting decisions. While the potential financial benefit of the first issue could justify a couple of days of lost production, the short term benefit for the second issue will not be enough for the management to risk a strike. Thus the recruiting issue might be used as a tradeable by the negotiators.
  • An important underlying frustration in the negotiations is BHP Billiton’s push to introduce more stringent Fly-In-Fly-Out rosters. The struggle to find enough employees willing to either live in the outback or leave home for multiple nights each week is one of the major HR challenges of mining in Australia in the next decades.

©2011 | Wilfred Visser |