28 December 2023

Rio Tinto makes major change to Amrun roster

| Matt Nicholls
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Cape York’s biggest employer says it has listened to its workers and will implement a major roster change at its new mine site in what is a dramatic shift for the company.

Rio Tinto Weipa will transition its Amrun bauxite mine operations to a “7-on, 7-off” roster as early as March next year.

Since opening the mine $2.7 billion mine in 2018, Rio Tinto has struggled to attract and retain workers at Amrun.

Many say this is because it’s a FIFO site without the FIFO.

Because Rio Tinto Weipa is a residential mining operation, meaning workers are meant to reside in Weipa or the surrounding communities, it has historically operated a roster of four or five shifts in a row, followed by four or five days off.

But that roster hasn’t been a success at Amrun, which requires workers to still live in the region, but to base themselves at a mining camp south of the Embley River for the duration of their swing.

As a result, the company has looked at alternative measures to attract and retain workers, including generous allowances.

However, it hopes that a change to a 7-on, 7-off roster will be the difference, “following extensive consultation with employees”.

The new roster will be introduced around March/April next year, with the exact date still to be confirmed.

“Consultation on the new roster found employees overwhelmingly (more than 70 per cent) in favour of the planned change,” a statement issued by Rio Tinto said.

“Rio Tinto is committed to keeping Weipa a vibrant and sustainable residential township and providing optimal conditions for employees to ensure the sustainability of bauxite mining on the Western Cape.”

Rio Tinto Weipa GM Shona Markham.

Weipa operations general manager Shona Markham said: “I know that roster changes are an important decision that affects the lives of our team members.

“This decision is in response to feedback from a majority of our Amrun-based teams and we have consulted extensively in recent months to make sure this is the right decision for our people.

“We have a proud track record in Weipa and a deep and enduring commitment to the community and we are committed to maintaining a residential workforce. These commitments will extend long into the future as we continue to invest in housing, electricity infrastructure and community development projects.”

Ms Markham said that Rio Tinto was committed to accommodating families with workers at different mine sites who would be impacted by the roster changes.

“We’ll do everything we can to help them and we’ve told them to reach out if they have any concerns,” she said.

Weipa Town Authority chair Michael Rowland said he wasn’t concerned about the impact of Amrun workers abandoning the town.

“We don’t think there will be a lot of self-funded FIFOs but if there are some that will only free up housing, which is much needed in Weipa at the moment.”

Rio Tinto said it would strip residential allowances from those who tried to self-FIFO.

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