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Mining giant Gold Fields gives Australian workers 6 per cent pay rise as skills shortage bites
One of the world's biggest gold miners has given its Australian workforce a massive 6 per cent pay rise — the latest sign that companies are growing increasingly desperate to keep skilled workers as staff shortages return to levels seen during the last mining boom.
South African mining giant Gold Fields employs more than 1,400 workers across its St Ives, Granny Smith, Agnew and Gruyere mines in WA's historic Goldfields region.
While the company is not calling it a pay rise, the $10 million site allowance approved for its WA workforce is equivalent to between $300 and $600 a month extra in every worker's back pocket.
Gold Fields Australia's executive vice-president Stuart Mathews said the bonus was reward for what he described as a "phenomenal result" — more than 24,000 ounces above budget across the mines — despite workers spending extended time away from home during the pandemic.
"We've asked a lot of our workforce in the past year," he said
"We asked them to have extra discipline in what they do, to really focus on safety, they changed roster arrangements for three months and we also asked people to stay on site because of the risk to the community when we had a five-day lockdown in Perth.
"We've also had people stay in the State while their family and kids were interstate and some haven't been home for six months because of the border situation.
"This recognition of what we've asked our workers to do over the past 12 months but also the phenomenal result they delivered for our company."
Mr Mathews said the site allowance was approved after annual salary reviews were completed in March, which he said saw more wages growth in line with the current market.
The irony that the company announced the pay rise on April Fool's Day was not lost on Mr Mathews.
"They (workers) probably won't believe it until the 15th of April when they get paid," he said.
Gold Fields has also beefed up bonuses to employees if they can refer new workers to the company — from $3,000 to $10,000.
Mr Mathews said the company would pay workers the bonus if someone they referred made it through a six-month probation period.
He said iron ore miners in WA's Pilbara were driving up prices for skilled workers, but construction work was also picking up.
"I'm looking out my window in Perth and there's construction going on all around me, and these people don't need to take a mining job, because they're getting paid really well," he said.
"There's plenty of work on, they don't need to go FIFO, so we are going to have to look at different ways to attract workers."
Starting to resemble last boom
Meanwhile, the chairman of Kambalda nickel miner Mincor Resources said the recruitment of skilled workers remained a challenge.
Brett Lambert made the comments at the official opening of the new Cassini nickel mine this week.
It is the first new nickel mine to be developed in Kambalda in more than 20 years and has created more than 200 jobs.
Mr Lambert said the skills shortage was starting to resemble the last mining boom.
"I think it's heading that way and this time it's probably more focused on underground mines," he said.
"Many of the gold mines are going underground now and so that's really stretching the ability of skilled underground operators.
"It's certainly worsening and could be seen as one of the major concerns for the industry in the next year or two."
WA's Mines Minister Bill Johnston said there were no easy solutions to the skills shortage facing the industry.
"I am told there's a 1,000 jobs just here in the Goldfields, so Western Australia should be a magnet for skilled labour from across Australia," he said.
"The government of Western Australia is also investing in TAFE, investing in skills, because we know we need to train up Western Australians for Western Australian jobs."