Online auction for mining workers
Miner, sitting down
A website, inspired by Australia's skilled labour shortage, has seen resources companies bidding for workers like eBay bargains this week.
The privately funded FIFObids website, where companies can bid on the anonymous skills profiles of fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers was officially launched on Monday after more than 14,000 job hunters and 500 companies registered to enter the online market place. FIFO workers are those who do not reside in the city where they work, but travel there for a several days on, then home again for rest days.
The site, first revealed in April, registers workers anonymously, listing their skills and experience, location, roster and job preferences, minimum hourly rate and availability. Companies search the database to identify matches and bid for the available workers. Workers review bids and if they accept them, their personal details are sent to the company for follow up. Workers use the site for free, whereas companies pay a spotter's fee based on the accepted hourly rate bid.
The site attracted more than 30,000 unique visits on its first day of trading.
It is the brainchild of Michael Haywood, who owned two mid-tier gas and mining services companies, and Antonluigi Gozzi, a consultant for a large construction and mining recruitment firm.
Given rapid cross poaching in the increasingly competitive resources labour market, the pair wanted to create a system to streamline the rehiring process.
"It was hard to hold on to people because when a job became available with better pay, they would move across quite quickly, so the labour force [would] become very unstable," Gozzi said.
Through the process of creating an open labour market, FIFObids unearthed some new information on available skilled Australian workers looking for jobs, which stands against arguments that foreign workers are already needed to build Australian mines.
Last month, the Australian Government approved mining billionaire Gina Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting's bid to bring 1700 foreign workers into the Pilbara on an Enterprise Migration Agreement for the Roy Hill iron ore project,
At the time, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said the first EMA was an "important development in helping to meet critical skills shortages in the resources sector," in a statement.
But Gozzi said about 95 per cent of the 3800 active job seekers on the FIFObids site in its first week were Australian, with an average 12 years' experience in the mining or oil and gas sectors.
"We believe we have evidence there's lots of labour out there, which is highly skilled," Gozzi said, although he also conceded outside help may be needed in the future.
"But there's enough engineers, truck drivers and geologists in Australia right now to staff a big mine."
There are another 10,901 candidates who are at various stages of registration on the website.
The booming mining and resources sectors have the added complexity of having temporary and specific labour cycles, Gozzi said: "you need highly skilled people for short periods of time."
"Companies are overwhelmed by the amount of administration that is necessary to manage high turnover," he said.
"Many companies go to labour hire companies to offload the problem – this makes labour even more expensive than it is already.
WA recruitment advisory firm Checkside's managing director Chris Bates said most executive and key support roles could be managed in house, but when it came to blue collar, technical skilled and semi-skilled workers there were real shortages to contend with.
"It's pretty apparent that traditional sources of recruiting people aren't meeting the need and filling the gaps," Bates said.
"We're saying you've got to be across this to our clients."
Bates said he has started using the site on behalf of a couple of smaller clients but had yet to lay his first bid.
Only time will tell if FIFObids can help solve the labour problems of the resources sector.