Train drivers in the Pilbara 'paid like surgeons'

 
  node09 Junior Train Controller

http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/paid-like-surgeons-240k-a-year-rio-tinto-train-drivers-to-be-replaced-by-robots-20131003-2utlw.html

WOW! Is this at all true? I had no idea.......I knew the wages were big for up there but if that is true, or even close to being true that train drivers are on 240K then that is a joke, that's a piss take.

At the most they would be worth a third of that, around 80K at an absolute stretch and only for the most senior and experienced drivers.

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  QSB6.7 Chief Train Controller

Location: Going off the rails on a crazy train.
Well, how about you go live in a desert hole away from your family where only a limited number of people are willing to go there.

After tax and the massive living costs that are associated with living in those areas, most people who live and work are no better off in comparison, to living in other areas of this great brown land.

Apply and see how it really is.
  Sulla1 Chief Commissioner

http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/paid-like-surgeons-240k-a-year-rio-tinto-train-drivers-to-be-replaced-by-robots-20131003-2utlw.html

WOW! Is this at all true? I had no idea.......I knew the wages were big for up there but if that is true, or even close to being true that train drivers are on 240K then that is a joke, that's a piss take.

At the most they would be worth a third of that, around 80K at an absolute stretch and only for the most senior and experienced drivers.
"node09"


80k wouldn't even cover basic living costs up there. It would barely cover rent let alone a boom town mortgage. Don't go comparing the comfortable suburbs with remote Australia. There are northern towns out there where people pay $12 for a head of lettuce.
  KRviator Moderator

Location: Up the front
I know a couple of blokes up there and asked if its true. The answer? Not even close.

One of my mates showed me his group certificate & he's grossing a smidgen over $150K working for Rio Tinto 2/2 FIFO. According to him, the only people on salaries more than $200K are a few residential staff from the early days of Robe/Hammersly and those mainline drivers on a 2/1 roster.

If you take into account subsidised housing & power, holiday travel for your family & overtime shifts, you would come close to that figure, but it certainly isn't close to what you actually get paid.
  Zodiac Junior Train Controller

Location: The Never Never
I know a couple of blokes up there and asked if its true. The answer? Not even close.

One of my mates showed me his group certificate & he's grossing a smidgen over $150K working for Rio Tinto 2/2 FIFO. According to him, the only people on salaries more than $200K are a few residential staff from the early days of Robe/Hammersly and those mainline drivers on a 2/1 roster.

If you take into account subsidised housing & power, holiday travel for your family & overtime shifts, you would come close to that figure, but it certainly isn't close to what you actually get paid.
KRviator

It's all the subsidised perks that everyone forgets, including the recipient.
If there is only $150k on your mates group certificate that means that RIO is picking up the fringe benefits tax on his behalf, so when they do a costing they will put that figure into the calculation.
This has been talked about at length in other threads, it's not suprising that any company that owns it's tracks, engines and rolling stock as well as the land that it sits on wouldn't look to lower it's overheads by automation.
Computers and GPS can move the same four handles just as well as someone sitting in a Bostrom Air Ride Chair without the need for the company to pay wages and cover fringe benefits tax.
Technology and the times move onwards.
I guess it's just a matter from the rail fans point of view if you embrace new technology or if you wish to live in the nostalgic past.
I'm old enough to have seen steam pass, diesels introduced, two way radio introduced, brake vans removed, DOO operation and much much more, but sometimes I do ask myself the question, "Am I more interested in the past than the future ?"

The Zodiac
  Tiny Train Controller

Location: Kalgoorlie
http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/paid-like-surgeons-240k-a-year-rio-tinto-train-drivers-to-be-replaced-by-robots-20131003-2utlw.html

WOW! Is this at all true? I had no idea.......I knew the wages were big for up there but if that is true, or even close to being true that train drivers are on 240K then that is a joke, that's a piss take.

At the most they would be worth a third of that, around 80K at an absolute stretch and only for the most senior and experienced drivers.
node09
I would love to know where you get the $80k figure from. At Aurizon, $80k is a typical wage for a trainee driver. I know drivers in Kalgoorlie who can earn over $140k with only a few overtime shifts.

Let me put it to you this way. I have been offered a job at Onslow driving trucks. Just plain old road trains. The basic wage is $180k per annum. However, when you calculate that I will have 10 return flights from Perth to Onslow (about $15,000 worth), and every night in the "camp" costs my employer about $100 ($25,000), plus super ($24,000), plus uniforms, PPE, and anything else they will pay for. Suddenly, the position of truck driver is worth $110k to me (after tax), but costs my employer $280k+.

Piss-take? Sounds a little like jealousy to me. If it was so easy and desirable a job, then they would have blokes lining up for it and they would be able to pay half what they currently do. Supply and demand.
  mikesyd Chief Commissioner

Location: Lurking
Rio and BHP etc (and not just the railway divisions either) have to pay the going rate to get people to do the job. That $240K number is what they calculate, which is always more than what the employee sees on their Payslip. FIFO Costs, FBT etc cause the numbers to rise considerably.

That sort of lifestyle is hard enough on Single people, and FIFO workers basically only get time to Eat, Sleep and Work as its usually 12 hour shifts for the duration. The pressure on those with families would be hard to bear. Good money, sure, but it would be hard to keep up the lifestyle for long.

Having lived in a remote Mining town many years ago (before FIFO existed), the reality is that they have to offer well above what someone might get in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne etc for a similar job, else the job simply isn't filled. In my time, I saw more than one person quit after a very short time as they realised that money doesn't buy happiness.

Costs are very high up there, just take a road trip one day and see what a night in a Motel at Port Headland/Karratha etc will cost you...if you can get one that is, the companies book some out for FIFO workers too. Hint, take a tent with you, or drive a Camper Van.....and save extra for the cost of Fuel too.


As to the original news item, its been talked about for a while, even in these forums, and with the technology as it now is, probably quite possible to do. Remotely controlled subway/metro trains are quite common, its only a matter of time until it gets to Heavy Freight. Then your job will be to drive a drain from a desk in Perth. I would expect that they would still have a need for humans driving at the terminal ends of the line though.
  crisfitz Chief Commissioner

Location: Enroute somewhere
As a contractor working (until very recently) on the design and implementation of the Autohaul project I feel I have some credible input into this rather ordinary piece of journalism.

Firstly, driver costs are only a minor bonus to the driverless trains. The actual number of drivers on the Rio network only reduce slightly, and most of that will be through natural attrition. All yard work, fuel and work trains and runs to / from the dumpers will still be with drivers.

The major advantage is tonnes to port - pure and simple. Every day trains lose time on the network due to crew changeovers. Only 5 minute you say.Not really. Many trains sit for 1/2 hour upwards waiting for the next shift to come on, drivers book off sick delaying services whilst a replacement is found and issues with crew amenities reduce otherwise good loco's to the workshops. Cut all this out - an extra 30 - 40 mpta to port. That's the real reason. More tonnes means more money.
  pilotdude09 Junior Train Controller

The whole article is quite amusing.

There are only a few drivers who earn that much $$ residential and they have to work a significant amount of overtime to achieve it.

Node09, you my friend are a moron. $80,000 pa in Karratha would give you $2000 per year to live off if your renting a $1500p/w house. Most people are in company housing but some are not and even there it's still charged at a % of market rate. Come live up here and live off $80k. Would be harder than living of minimum wage in a city with the cost of living here. Should really research before you say stupid comments like that. Also remember we do 12hr shifts, Driver Only and work in extreme and isolated conditions.

The majorty of residential mainline drivers would range from the 150k-200k mark depending on a number of factors. Bases are between 70k and 100k once again depending on quite a lot of factors.

Our bases are low but allowances are built on top and create a 'total package' this includes a bonus and super and with this added on top it would still max out around the 200k mark and that's a high earner.

The Autohaul/Autofail project will fail miserably, unfortunately the company could have invested the money in much more than trying to get something off the ground that just wont work. Too many systems that have to talk, too many variables (especially come wet season), ECP isn't working correctly, Driver Assist is almost 2 years late, The signalling system is dodgy at the best of times and has a large number of issues, they are yet to get approval, the company is cost cutting and loco and wagon reliability is up crap creek. Honestly when you hear how many systems have to talk together and work together it's quite amusing. The systems can barely do it now!!

They can't even get the automated load out system to work, what hope have they got operating 30,000 ton trains on undulating track with different weights (You have to do things a vastly different way with certain mines), vastly different braking capacity between trains. Sure ECP goes a long way to assist with this but last time I looked a computer cant calculate feel it's job is to get the train to track speed and modulate to keep it there. Fun times ahead!

But I look forward to the first train in July, intend on heading up with a chair and esky and watch it descend the chitchesters!! Should be quite entertaining!
  Northmetro Junior Train Controller

Obviously from the previous posts, the numbers vary widely and I would guess that anyone who writes an article in the press will be looking for the extreme example to get a headline that attracts attention.

So a few facts that are already well known
  • employment in remote places like the Pilbara will require an attractive salary both as an incentive to people to move (or commute) there and the higher cost of living. Nothing on the supermarket shelves is produced there - it all has to be trucked in. Houses have to be built to higher standards due to cyclones and much of the construction material has to be transported in too.
  • Plenty of mentions in the media over the last few days that Rio is ramping up an extra 70 million tonnes of production (before anything gets automated). So some simple numbers - if a train carries about 25,000 tonnes of iron ore, this means an extra 2800 trains a year, or about 8 a day. Looking at the distances on the map, I would guess that most trains need 2 drivers each way and probably another one to do unloading & servicing etc. So our 8 trains a day use up about 40 drivers. If the roster is equal time on and off, this doubles to 80 and probably reaches somewhere around 90-100 once holiday and sick cover are built in.
  • FMG and BHP have been busy expanding too. So let's assume their combined demand is the same again so suddenly we have a demand for possibly 200 drivers in the Pilbara, mostly at the upper end of the skill level. The local population is very small so it's probably safe to say that sourcing this number from the local schools is not a practical option so you have to offer enough to get people to move AND end up with more in their bank account than in their current job. Most of these people will already be driving trains somewhere else.
  • In the case of Rio, with automation on the horizon, candidates probably won't be feeling to confident about long term job security either, so offering big bucks to get someone there for 3 years when they may feel it might not last any longer is probably a necessity.


And some numbers to think about $130 a tonne (current iron ore price) x 500 million tonnes (WA iron ore exports last financial year) = $65 billion. 800 train drivers in the Pilbara (my guess) x $200k = $160 million. So train drivers cost about 0.25% of the sale price of the product. That's not a big hit on your business when not having enough train drivers leaves your product sitting in stockpiles at the inland mines and worth nothing.

What will be interesting to see is what happens when the situation stabilises. Once everyone has enough drivers there will be no more bidding up the price and there won't be a need to keep the incentives as large - although turnover in remote areas will always be higher as people make different lifestyle choices as their situation changes (older children needing education that isn't available outside the big cities, elderly relatives in metropolitan areas needing more support, partner can't progress their career etc.). There will still be a margin for working in the Pilbara, but it will slowly drift down.
  Tiny Train Controller

Location: Kalgoorlie
I'll tell you what though.

If Rio/BHP/FMG want to match my wage as a road-train driver, I'd be more than happy to jump ship. I currently work 2 on/1 off, and live in a single room donga in Mt Magnet, driving myself in and out of Geraldton. If any of those companies wish to offer me a FIFO position on $140k, same conditions as I currently work, I would jump at the chance. Of course, I don't have a drivers ticket, but I have passed all the medicals and aptitude testing (with flying colours!) at my "previous" employer.

So, Rio/BHP/FMG:

Trainee loco driver position FIFO from Geraldton, on $140k /annum, and I'll be happy to stay with you!
  node09 Junior Train Controller

The whole article is quite amusing.

There are only a few drivers who earn that much $$ residential and they have to work a significant amount of overtime to achieve it.

Node09, you my friend are a moron. $80,000 pa in Karratha would give you $2000 per year to live off if your renting a $1500p/w house. Most people are in company housing but some are not and even there it's still charged at a % of market rate. Come live up here and live off $80k. Would be harder than living of minimum wage in a city with the cost of living here. Should really research before you say stupid comments like that. Also remember we do 12hr shifts, Driver Only and work in extreme and isolated conditions.

The majorty of residential mainline drivers would range from the 150k-200k mark depending on a number of factors. Bases are between 70k and 100k once again depending on quite a lot of factors.

Our bases are low but allowances are built on top and create a 'total package' this includes a bonus and super and with this added on top it would still max out around the 200k mark and that's a high earner.

The Autohaul/Autofail project will fail miserably, unfortunately the company could have invested the money in much more than trying to get something off the ground that just wont work. Too many systems that have to talk, too many variables (especially come wet season), ECP isn't working correctly, Driver Assist is almost 2 years late, The signalling system is dodgy at the best of times and has a large number of issues, they are yet to get approval, the company is cost cutting and loco and wagon reliability is up crap creek. Honestly when you hear how many systems have to talk together and work together it's quite amusing. The systems can barely do it now!!

They can't even get the automated load out system to work, what hope have they got operating 30,000 ton trains on undulating track with different weights (You have to do things a vastly different way with certain mines), vastly different braking capacity between trains. Sure ECP goes a long way to assist with this but last time I looked a computer cant calculate feel it's job is to get the train to track speed and modulate to keep it there. Fun times ahead!

But I look forward to the first train in July, intend on heading up with a chair and esky and watch it descend the chitchesters!! Should be quite entertaining!
pilotdude09

Your'e calling me a moron! That's like the pot calling the kettle black. You are the last person that should be calling people a moron and you and most of the others on the forum would know exactly what I am referring to.

I quoted a news story that was doing the rounds at the time. Play the story, not the man.
  pilotdude09 Junior Train Controller

Yup I am because you not the article said the following:

At the most they would be worth a third of that, around 80K at an absolute stretch and only for the most senior and experienced drivers.
node09

There's a lot more to driving trains and living in a remote and fairly isolated region and 80k wouldn't even come close to cutting it as I said that wouldn't even pay the rent before tax for a private market rental. People should do some more research and have an understanding before making silly comments such as this unless its a wind up and then you should at least add a sarcastic face or quotation marks so the majority of people don't think that you have no idea what your talking about.
  KRviator Moderator

Location: Up the front
At the most they would be worth a third of that, around 80K at an absolute stretch and only for the most senior and experienced drivers.
"Node09"
Riiiigggghttttt... Rolling Eyes

How's about you go and look at the ABS for the average annual salary in Australia and then let see if you repeat that claim. I doubt you would find any Driver in Australia that is paid less than $80K. Factor in "Pilbara prices" and $80K wouldn't even cover the essentials yet alone any luxuries.

Employees are worth what the market will pay for them, which is why QR drivers earn around $120K in the coalfields - and they probably don't have to deal with dust, flies and cyclones to get it!
  Locovation Beginner

Actually I drive these Trains have done for quiet a number of years. I don't make $240k a year at all.
I've lived both residential in company housing subsidized and FIFO I've also done the 2/1 roster and the 2/2.
I'm aware of all the pay banding and that incorporates an additional allowance as a trainer and assessor of $5k a year.
As a driver qualified to operate these trains on their rail network from both the robe valley mines to the cape lambert port and from the Tom price mines to the dampier port.
I still make no where close to $240k in my hand a year.
I do however pay at least 45-60k tax a year am on a base salary of less then 80k ... And am subjected to allowances being changed and retracted at their will depending on what they require of me in my job description.
As for the $240k salary as previously mentioned in other posts that could total up when compiling all the costs associated with a driver from accommodation to travel and subsidies.
Let me also note that when you pay $4:40 for a 600ml soft drink in the pilbara and $2:10 for a litre of fuel.
Along with $700 for a standard car service just a general check over.
That the wage of $240k minus the super and tax, associated with outgoing living expenses and costs equates to the average person living in a city or another state earning about 60-70k in their hand a year. Except they are not paying for overpriced goods and services and living in a false economy where the cost of living is marginally 30-40% higher.
Higher pay higher cost of living.
Even with the FIFO employees who make the pilbara coin and take it elsewhere they still have to consider the psychological impacts of their lifestyle, no money will ever amount to enough to pay for such impacts,
Once again a very false report on the wages made and a stereotype of the role.
It's about time a news editor did some hands on experience in the field. They should get on board and drive for 9hrs continuously with minimal sleep after 13 shifts then get in a vehicle and drive 2-3hrs by themselves as the suns rising in their eyes.Maybe it's these editors we should call when cattle that have been smashed need removing of track at 2am in the morning and all you have is your bare hands. Or perhaps these editors could carry  knuckle pins for us along the track 2kms so we can get hauling again after a seperation.
As you can clearly read we all have an opinion of what others do in their role but how about walk a mile in their shoes.
Maybe then and only then will the accurate figures be stated.
  pilotdude09 Junior Train Controller

Well said Locovation.

The cynic in me can't help but think this is all Rio propaganda and that it was leaked to the media and all part of their political play book so it doesn't look bad in the public spectrum when they ask the board for more Autohaul/Autofail money to get rid of their horribly over priced train drivers who's job can be done by much smarter computers Rolling Eyes

Ultimately Rio is spending a dollar to save a cent.
  Zodiac Junior Train Controller

Location: The Never Never
These days I'm General Manager of a Darwin based company, nothing rail related though, but regardless when calculating what an employee costs many factors are used.

We do not just use gross salary, we use gross salary plus statutory costs such as superannuation, workers compensation insurance, public liability insurance and then add things like portable long service for construction industry workers.

We then add in company vehicles, fuel, servicing, company mobiles phones, uniforms, tools, right down to how much tea, coffee and toilet paper we supply.
Then we add on costs such as Supervisors, Administration Staff and Managers who are required to support the operational staff.

Get a pen and paper out and start adding that up.

80k base
15k company vehicle
2.5k company phone
1.5k workers comp
1.5k public liability insurance
$700 uniforms'
$300 tea/coffee/etc
$1k upkeep of staff facilities
then add at least 25% to that for Managerial and Admin support
Then lets toss in ongoing training etc for around $5000 a year
Then a percentage of payroll tax.
and then annual leave and sick pay liabilities.

And the above does not even touch shift allowances and overtime payments which can easily double a base salary.

The cost of a single employee is way beyond what most people ever consider.

But don't get me wrong here, if I'm paying you $240k and I'm recovering your costs and making at least a 25% profit I'm happy, but if I could find a way to pay you half of that and make a 75% profit I'd do it in the blink of an eye.

It's a business not a charity.

The whole "it's so expensive here" argument is a crock, do you want to earn $240k or not ? If not go back to dog patch, if you do want that sort of remuneration get back to work and stop complaining or take what ever qualification you have to any major city and try and get the same conditions and pay, that's right it's just not going to happen.

The Zodiac

What do the Amish say ? "Make hay while the sun shines"
  fzr560 Chief Train Controller

These days I'm General Manager of a Darwin based company, nothing rail related though, but regardless when calculating what an employee costs many factors are used.

We do not just use gross salary, we use gross salary plus statutory costs such as superannuation, workers compensation insurance, public liability insurance and then add things like portable long service for construction industry workers.

We then add in company vehicles, fuel, servicing, company mobiles phones, uniforms, tools, right down to how much tea, coffee and toilet paper we supply.
Then we add on costs such as Supervisors, Administration Staff and Managers who are required to support the operational staff.

Get a pen and paper out and start adding that up.

80k base
15k company vehicle
2.5k company phone
1.5k workers comp
1.5k public liability insurance
$700 uniforms'
$300 tea/coffee/etc
$1k upkeep of staff facilities
then add at least 25% to that for Managerial and Admin support
Then lets toss in ongoing training etc for around $5000 a year
Then a percentage of payroll tax.
and then annual leave and sick pay liabilities.

And the above does not even touch shift allowances and overtime payments which can easily double a base salary.

The cost of a single employee is way beyond what most people ever consider.

But don't get me wrong here, if I'm paying you $240k and I'm recovering your costs and making at least a 25% profit I'm happy, but if I could find a way to pay you half of that and make a 75% profit I'd do it in the blink of an eye.

It's a business not a charity.

The whole "it's so expensive here" argument is a crock, do you want to earn $240k or not ? If not go back to dog patch, if you do want that sort of remuneration get back to work and stop complaining or take what ever qualification you have to any major city and try and get the same conditions and pay, that's right it's just not going to happen.

The Zodiac

What do the Amish say ? "Make hay while the sun shines"
Zodiac
Think you missed the point. Didn't see any-one(that works there) complaining about about their pay. They were only educating the ignorant about why employers need to offer the wages that they do. I got the impression that the drivers up there have a very good understanding of supply and demand. And just to repeat, no-one up there is getting 240k. Either believe the paper or believe the people that see the group certificates.
  QSB6.7 Chief Train Controller

Location: Going off the rails on a crazy train.
These days I'm General Manager of a Darwin based company, nothing rail related though, but regardless when calculating what an employee costs many factors are used.

We do not just use gross salary, we use gross salary plus statutory costs such as superannuation, workers compensation insurance, public liability insurance and then add things like portable long service for construction industry workers.

We then add in company vehicles, fuel, servicing, company mobiles phones, uniforms, tools, right down to how much tea, coffee and toilet paper we supply.
Then we add on costs such as Supervisors, Administration Staff and Managers who are required to support the operational staff.

Get a pen and paper out and start adding that up.

80k base
15k company vehicle
2.5k company phone
1.5k workers comp
1.5k public liability insurance
$700 uniforms'
$300 tea/coffee/etc
$1k upkeep of staff facilities
then add at least 25% to that for Managerial and Admin support
Then lets toss in ongoing training etc for around $5000 a year
Then a percentage of payroll tax.
and then annual leave and sick pay liabilities.

And the above does not even touch shift allowances and overtime payments which can easily double a base salary.

The cost of a single employee is way beyond what most people ever consider.

But don't get me wrong here, if I'm paying you $240k and I'm recovering your costs and making at least a 25% profit I'm happy, but if I could find a way to pay you half of that and make a 75% profit I'd do it in the blink of an eye.

It's a business not a charity.

The whole "it's so expensive here" argument is a crock, do you want to earn $240k or not ? If not go back to dog patch, if you do want that sort of remuneration get back to work and stop complaining or take what ever qualification you have to any major city and try and get the same conditions and pay, that's right it's just not going to happen.

The Zodiac

What do the Amish say ? "Make hay while the sun shines"
Zodiac


Well said.  

The part that stands out is the "business not a charity" line.

I often tell people when they are complaining about things "Hey, it is (insert business name) not the Red Cross".
  gmanning1 Locomotive Driver

Location: Sydney
The cost of a single employee is way beyond what most people ever consider.
Zodiac

Rule of thumb for labour without anything such as a vehicle and equipment you need to look at 2-2.5 x the f/t hourly rate.

Even an unskilled labourer assistant will cost you $45+ per hour (~80K PA) from a labour hire agency who will be pay close to minimum wage rates to their workers.
  Northmetro Junior Train Controller

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-30/karratha-identified-as-richest-regional-town-in-australia/5057778
It's all relative. Why do people earn more? It costs more to live there. Also check on the major airlines' web sites for their current fares from Perth. It's usually cheaper to fly to Adelaide or Melbourne than to Karratha or Port Hedland. Check out the cost of a house (buy or rent). Ask a local resident the cost of their power bill (aircon running continuously for 7 months a year).

We live in a market economy where the price for anything is (or should be) one that is acceptable between a willing buyer and a willing seller.

Big companies don't pay more than they have to for anything. There is obviously value to them in maintaining quality, quantity and certainty of a key resource.
  MILW Junior Train Controller

Location: Earth
Big companies don't pay more than they have to for anything.
Northmetro
Ain't that the truth.


Since the mining companies are playing the game of plunder, the train drivers might as well do the same. They should get as much money as they can, while they can, especially if they could be dumped during a slump or end up replaced by ATO. If they really did manage to swing a $240k deal, I'd congratulate them.
  gmanning1 Locomotive Driver

Location: Sydney
A group of 250 Pilbara train drivers for BHP Billiton have endorsed a union wage deal that does not guarantee them annual pay rises.



https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/business/wa/a/22808464/bhp-train-drviers-give-up-on-wage-hike/

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