Fly-in, fly-out workers remain frustrated at border and quarantine requirements they have to fulfill both in Tasmania and interstate.
But the State Controller is not considering any changes to Tasmania’s rules for FIFOs despite it being unknown when the state’s borders will reopen.
FIFO workers are not considered an essential worker by the Tasmanian government and have to quarantine when entering the state either at home or in a government-run hotel if they are arriving from a specified high-risk area such as Victoria.
North Motton FIFO worker Jarrod Otten, who is employed in South Australia, was locked out of Tasmania for three months because if he had returned he would have been required to enter hotel quarantine.
“You could jump into hotel quarantine for the entire period of your days off or stay interstate which is what most of us did so we could stay employed,” he said.
He said Tasmania should adopt the same system as SA for testing FIFO workers for COVID-19.
“We go over there, we get tested and we quarantine for 24 to 48 hours to prove we don’t have it. Then we go back to work.
“I don’t know why we can’t do something similar.”
He said he was not aware of any COVID cases on a FIFO site.
“People thought lockdown was bad – we were essentially under the same thing there,” he said.
“We had a curfew. You’d basically eat, sleep and call your family.”
Mr Otten said it was in the government’s best interest financially to let FIFO workers enter Tasmania as essential workers because it would allow them to contribute to the economy.
“Not saying we are the world’s highest income earners but we do earn a reasonable salary and we are not spending it at home,” he said.
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A Launceston man working in Western Australia, who did not want to be named, said he would like to see any person travelling for essential reasons such as medical or employment reasons be considered an essential worker.
“I wish Tasmania could go along the same line as SA – they treat them as essential travellers even though they are going home versus going to work,” he said.
The worker said he was happy to quarantine at home to protect the health of other Tasmanians but he was worried hotel quarantine could be reintroduced on the fly if the situation with COVID-19 changed.
“The Premier said they can change that within half an hour. They could say Adelaide Airport is a high-risk area and I would have to go into hotel quarantine,” he said.
“The requirement to go into a hotel – it basically makes you choose between being employed and having a relationship.”
A Somerset man working in Queensland, who wished to remain anonymous, said many workers had been in continuous quarantine for the past six months.
“Our biggest concern is, if this goes for another year or even two years, our workers will be forced to stay inside their homes this whole time,” he said.
“Yet we see transport operators who enter hotspots and cities allowed to enter with zero days of quarantine and an essential worker from interstate can enter and they are only required to wear a mask and try limit their time in public areas.”
Western Australia’s restrictions ‘a killer’
Another Launceston man who works in WA, who wished to be referred to as RW, also said home quarantine was no issue but having to complete hotel quarantine in WA before being able to work was a killer.
RW is currently on day 10 of hotel quarantine after returning to WA.
“If you come from a clean state like Tassie, I’d like to think you could come back to WA without a problem if you are eligible and be exempt from the hotel isolation so you can go back to work,” RW said.
“If I had to do hotel isolation in Tasmania as well I wouldn’t do it.”
A North-West FIFO worker, who wished to be anonymous, has been stuck in WA since February.
He said it was frustrating WA and Tasmania could not come to an agreement for FIFO workers.
“All we are asking is to let us back into each state with home quarantine,” he said.
“The level of testing FIFO workers undergo to attend site is higher than any civilian could imagine.
“Surely Premier Gutwein can appreciate the length of prevention mining companies go to ensure the health and safety of their employees?”
Mel, who did not want her last name published, said her husband who usually worked overseas but had been transferred to work in WA when international borders closed had been stuck interstate since March.
She said her husband worked eight days on and six days off but his rostered days off did not match up with flight routes to get him back to Tasmania.
“If he was to fly home he’d spend the whole six days in quarantine. Then he would need to do 14 days back in WA before starting his shift – that’s not going to work,” she said.
Labor seeking review of FIFO rules
Labor leader Rebecca White said she had written to the Premier seeking a review of the exemption system on behalf of Tasmanian FIFO workers.
“The government providing exemptions for interstate workers is a slap in the face to Tasmanian workers with those skills, and to those who have had to sacrifice seeing their own families during the pandemic,” Ms White said.
“We know current border restrictions and quarantine requirements are directly affecting the lives of many Tasmanians, including workers who fly in and out of our state for their job.
“Many Tasmanians working interstate have been unable to visit their loved ones for an extended period of time and this has caused huge heartache and distress.”
When asked if changes to the rules for FIFO workers were being considered given the state’s borders may remain closed for some time, State Controller and Tasmania Police Commissioner Darren Hine acknowledged the difficult circumstances experienced by some FIFO workers but said the health and safety of Tasmanians was the top priority.
“Mandatory quarantine requirements are in place to protect Tasmania from the threat of coronavirus, and like any returning traveller, a FIFO worker can present a risk of transmitting coronavirus into Tasmania,” Commissioner Hine said.
“A FIFO worker with a Tasmanian address who works in a state other than Victoria can complete their 14 days quarantine at home.”
Commissioner Hine said people coming to Tasmania could make an application for essential traveller status.
“That application needs to include evidence that the requirement to enter 14 days of quarantine would lead to an unusual, undeserved or disproportionate hardship,” he said.