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Western Australia

‘Suck it up or stay home’: unfair choice at FMG

May 6, 2020

Our Union has mental health concerns for workers at Twiggy Forest’s Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) who are being restricted to camp in Port Hedland for weeks, even months on end.

The locomotive drivers have been told by Fortescue management that they are not to leave under any circumstances, even during their two week R and R.

The workers were FIFO from eastern states before national and state coronavirus travel restrictions were implemented. They have now taken the difficult decision to leave their families and relocate to Western Australia until restrictions change.

However in the absence of being provided with adequate community housing, workers are being accommodated in camps, such as Port Hedland’s Club Hamilton, which they can’t leave except to work. With rosters of two weeks on / two weeks off, that’s a lot of time just sitting in camp.

WA District Secretary Greg Busson said there was no reason to keep workers confined to camp and the union had serious concerns about their mental health.

“Keeping men and women confined to a small camp without release for months on end is unnecessary, unfair and a surefire recipe for mental health problems.

“These workers have been in Port Hedland for more than 21 days, some have been there for six weeks. They have uprooted their lives at the company’s request to keep production going.

“We understand that initially, after arrival in WA, there was a reason to keep people separated. But there is no reason now to think their chance of being infected with COVID-19 is higher than anyone else in the community.

“Twiggy Forest and Fortescue management should do the right thing and allow workers to leave the camp for essential activities like exercise or to purchase food after they have completed any mandated quarantine period.

“They can be trusted to act responsibly regarding social distancing and they shouldn’t be treated as prisoners.”

One member said that just being able to go for a walk and get a coffee would make a big difference. “The only option is to suck it up or to go home and wait it out. Not a fair choice at all.”

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