Fort McMurray residents weigh in on how fly-in, fly-out workforce affects their community

Transient workers put strain on infrastructure and lack opportunities to get involved in the community, say permanent residents surveyed by U of A researchers.


Fly-in, fly-out workers in the city of Fort McMurray may have a negative impact on the community because there aren’t enough options to get them involved in the community, according to a University of Alberta study.

Researchers conducted 25 in-depth interviews with Fort McMurray residents to gauge their thoughts on the impact of FIFO workers on their community. Three-quarters of the people interviewed were residents of the community for more than 10 years, and all had lived in Fort McMurray for at least a few years.


“This research is trying to illustrate local experiences of the effects of a relatively new (fly-in, fly-out) employment model,” explained Leith Deacon, an assistant professor in the urban planning program and principal investigator in the Sustainable Community Planning Development project.

Deacon and his research team found that FIFO workers have little interaction with the local community.

“They aren’t engaged,” said Deacon. “They come in, they work and they return home. They’re not part of a community league, and they haven’t joined a gym.”

The permanent residents in the region also expressed concerns about the strain FIFO workers put on infrastructure and services—like health care—that they do not support with tax dollars.

The use of FIFO workers also makes it difficult for the workers to develop an attachment to the area, and affects the long-term sustainability of Fort McMurray, according to the study participants.

“If a person isn’t interacting with the community, their ability to develop attachment to that community is diminished,” explained Deacon. “There is no meaningful way for FIFO workers to develop this attachment—especially if you take a bus from your residence to site everyday. Your transportation and food are provided. You don’t go to a coffee shop or a grocery store.”

The researchers also cited a lack of means and opportunities for FIFO workers to integrate into the community. A followup study by Deacon’s master’s student Trina Lamanes investigated recreation and leisure opportunities as a way of getting FIFO workers engaged. Lamanes’ study highlighted a number of ways to improve the opportunities, including longer opening hours and offering child care.

The paper, "Transiency, Fly-In-Fly-Out Workers, and Sustainability: Perceptions From Within a Resource-Based Community," was published in WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment.