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Western Australia

FIFO sexual harassment exposed

August 24, 2021


A survey of FIFO mineworkers in Western Australia’s Pilbara region reveals a disturbing rate of workplace sexual harassment.

The Western Mineworkers Alliance (WMWA) – our joint venture with the Australian Workers Union to cover iron ore miners in the Pilbara region – has called for a range of measures to ensure safer FIFO workplaces and camps including an independent body to assess harassment and abuse claims.

The WMWA made a submission to the Western Australian Parliament’s recently-established Inquiry into sexual harassment in the FIFO mining industry.

Read the submission here.

A survey conducted for the submission found that while women and men experienced sexual harassment, the rates for women were significantly higher.

Of respondents to the survey:

  • One in five women have been offered improved conditions of employment or career advancement dependent on sexual favours, either explicitly or implicitly
  • One in five women had experienced physical acts of sexual assault
  • Two thirds had experienced verbal harassment of a sexual nature, including jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation
  • A third had experienced unwanted touching or physical contact
  • Over half had experienced inappropriate staring or leering that made them feel intimidated

Despite these experiences, the majority of women and men are not confident managers understand the prevalence of sexual harassment on site and in camp. In addition to the industry-funded independent body to assess claims, the WMWA recommended measures including:

  • Better security at FIFO workplaces and camps
  • Better mental health support and assessment
  • Mining employers to adopt the principles and publish progress on Respect@Work report
  • Relationships between workers and supervisors to be declared to prevent exploitation
  • Curb excessive use of alcohol through responsible service principles, not a blanket daily limit
  • Statewide standards for camp accommodation.

WA Secretary Greg Busson said it was time for mining employers to invest in improving security and facilities and hold managers to account for stamping out abuse.

“It’s great to see more women entering the mining industry, however mining companies have not backed them up by investing in practical support on the ground to protect safety and well-being.

“We also hear disturbing cases of victimisation, cover-ups and blacklisting when workers raise complaints.

“We will do everything we can to improve conditions for women and men in the mining industry and hold mining companies to account for delivering better and safer work environments.”

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