The West Live: The mental toll of FIFO during coronavirus pandemic


Under extended rosters and strict restrictions, WA’s fly-in, fly-out workers are keeping our key industries afloat amid a global pandemic but there are growing concerns about their mental health.

From on-site health professionals, a series of health checks to staggered meal times, life has dramatically changed for our remote workforce following the arrival of the deadly coronavirus in Australia.

Speaking to The West Live host Jenna Clarke later this morning the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union’s Greg Busson will discuss the mental health toll the pandemic safety measures are having on the State’s FIFO community.

He’ll tell Ms Clarke why he’s meeting leaders at mining-giant Rio Tinto next week to talk all thing mental health and what the union and employers can do together to ensure their workforce are emotionally healthy.

Mr Busson is also concerned that the real pain of COVID-19 will be felt in the sector in the coming months if shipments drop even slightly, claiming it could potentially spark mass redundancies.

Following news out of Fremantle yesterday that the crew members on a berthed livestock ship from Al Kuwait have coronavirus, Ms Clarke will speak to Maritime Union of Australia ITF Inspector Keith McCorriston.

The Federal Agriculture Department had received information that three ill crew members had higher body temperatures of between 37C and 37.8C in the 48 hours before the shipped berth in Fremantle. Another crew member had a high temperature and was experiencing pain swallowing.

The information was never acted upon, meaning a Fremantle Port pilot and trainee, Agriculture Department quarantine officers and Australian Marine Safety Association inspectors all boarded the vessel wearing PPE.

Mr McCorriston will discuss the sheep ship fiasco and question why workers were oblivious to the threat despite knowledge of the illness.

Opposition trade spokeswoman Madeleine King will also be on the show to discuss China relations amid the COVID-19 fall out.

Ms King will also comment on Prime Minister’s Scott Morrison speech at the National Press Club pointing towards an overhaul of Australia’s industrial relations system.

Mr Morrison claims contentious “union-busting” laws would be shelved in a sign of “good faith”, while Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter has been appointed to give the area a facelift.

Listen to The West Live at 8.45am