Recently I read a review that was sent to me about FIFO workers and how overpaid they are in Australia. Well I beg to differ – My husband is a FIFO worker and he earns a good salary for what he does (around $140,000 per year) but to be very honest so do most accountants, lawyers, architects, engineers and medical professionals. The difference is that most of them go home every night and I am sure they do not pump out 12 hour day weeks, week after week.

So are we pricing ourselves out of the market? A friend of mine recently returned from the UK and could not believe how cheap it was to live there from food, to rent, electricity, to phone bills etc. Another friend of mine who is in the fashion industry is living her dream in New York, and again talks about how expensive it is to come home! She cannot believe the cost of a night out in Brisbane or Sydney – she was shocked that we pay $11 for a glass of wine.

So maybe this is why our FIFO workers get paid what they do. FIFO work is not for everyone, especially as they have to give up a huge part of their lifestyle, for example last year I attended two weddings, a 30th and 40th Birthday, an engagement party and a Christmas celebration by myself. Most Sundays I get a fabulous lie in and a leisurely breakfast (we don’t have kids), where as my husband works three weeks straight getting up at 4.45am every morning and back to camp at 6.00pm every night (12 hour days). He does get 7 days off, of which two are used up in travel, one is spent catching up on sleep and then that leaves us with four days to meet with friends, family, doctors, dentists, hairdressers and the list goes on. So yes, I do believe he is paid for what he does.

Please don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that my husband is hard done by. In fact he/we have chosen this job and way of life to help us get ahead and he does earn a good salary. But to get this salary it does have consequences. Some FIFO roles do have generous salaries and I am sure you can all think of quite a few – but then so do some local 9 – 5pm jobs. Working in the recruitment industry I see these regularly come across the desk. I feel the media is picking on the easy target of the ‘FIFO worker’ who only make up a percentage of the generously paid workers in Australia. Unless of course you are a CEO / CFO of a large organisation where you are on a salary of $5 million plus and then when all goes belly-up the shareholders pay you out another $5 million to leave.

Australia is an expensive place to live – we have a great country and a life style that is costly. You only need to look at the cost of living compared to other countries along with our average salaries in general. Look at the manufacturing market, they have to change drastically otherwise it will no longer be a competitor in the market. Using manufacturing as an example if we were paid what some other countries pay their staff then it would be impossible to live in this wonderful country. Salaries are reflective of economies of scale.

So in summary, our FIFO workers are paid well, but before you judge the salaries, ask yourself would you do FIFO if the salary were the same as a local based role? The incentive for long shift hours, camp life and living away from home/family must be compensated. If not through remuneration then what?

Alicia Sumich – Group Manager, Business Development

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