Workers based at a Karratha mining camp were so sick, some “felt like they were dying” as a salmonella epidemic reportedly affecting up to 50 FIFO workers, hospitalising at least 20 and leaving mattresses lining the porches of dongas.
Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union state secretary Mick Buchan believed poor camp conditions at Searipple Village had left subcontractors to a number of big mining companies seriously ill.
“It is a disgrace what is happening up there at the moment,” he said.
“This all goes down to the amenity providers and where their margins are being cut short.
“FIFO camps and amenities should be built up to a standard, not a price.”
Reports of a couple of workers getting sick began coming through on Wednesday, before the true impact was revealed on Friday.
A worker who was in hospital for three days with food poisoning, said he believed the streets of Bali were cleaner than the camp.
“I have had gastro before but nothing like this,” he said.
“There were lots of feral cats leaving faeces everywhere and cockroaches. There were sewerage leaks.
“The health standards were disgusting.”
The CFMEU believe a City of Karratha health inspector was at the site on Thursday and Friday looking into conditions, where at least 20 other workers were in quarantine.
Workers want to fly home immediately because they do not want to stay at the camp under its current conditions.
Mr Buchan said an independent audit needed to be undertaken at the village and if it was found not to meet standard, then it should be shut down.
“This should be a clear warning sign to the big companies,” he said.
“No one is winning. Workers are getting sick and not being able to go to their jobs.
“Break away from the award agreements and base agreements.”
CFMEU North West organiser Paul Ferriera said this was not the only case of poor camp conditions he had seen in his time in the area.
“It is just the worst,” he said.
It is believed some of the workers will be compensated by their employers through workers compensation.
In a statement from the Searipple Village, the camp confirmed that it responded to 26 village guests experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms starting on March 11.
“The village has assisted the majority of these guests present to the local hospital for treatment of their symptoms and followed up with further assistance in transport and accommodation,” the statement read.
“The staff and management of Searipple wish these guests a speedy recovery from their illness and apologise for the discomfort and inconvenience experienced.
“As with any multiple gastrointestinal event, it is now under review by the Department of Health and the City of Karratha to determine the source. Searipple Village is co-operating fully with this review and continues to follow advice from both organisations on management of the event, as well as supporting patients.”
In the statement, the camp said the kitchen facilities provider prepared meals according to Australian Food Safety standard HACCP but would conduct a review.
“The Village is not aware of more than the initial 26 guests being impacted, and there have been no further reports of symptoms since 2am on Thursday March 14th. Searipple Village remains safe for residents to take up accommodation,” the statement read.