Widow of FIFO worker speaks out

The widow of a FIFO worker who took his own life before flying back to start his next shift has spoken out on social media, outraged at the treatment she received from the company her late husband worked for.

Sharon Johnson, sharing her story on Facebook page FIFO Construction Workers 3/1 Forum, began her heart-wrenching post with “Today I will be at my husband’s funeral”.

Anthony Johnson ended his own life the day before flying back to Theiss’ Wheatstone LNG Project in Onslow, Western Australia, where he worked as a boilermaker and leading hand supporting his family.

“I would never normally do this in such a public forum but his story needs to be told,” Mrs Johnson wrote.

“I have a fire burning inside of me that will not be put out until this company is exposed. The treatment I have experienced is so cruel and discussing – I can only hope this post helps me to spread the word to fellow construction workers.”

When she tried to contact Thiess after the death to let them know her husband would not be on the flight back to work, her calls went unanswered for eight days.

After finally making contact with the HR department, Mrs Johnson claimed she was then told she would not receive her husband’s last pay, annual leave or any other entitlements.


“According to Thiess – they were legally bound to not release a cent by the ATO. They would require in writing by a lawyer or executive of the estate, a number of things that would take months to achieve.

“You see, a death certificate with the cause of death can take up to five months to come thru [sic]. We did not have a Will therefore there was no estate. I was crudely told by this lady that I should perhaps seek Legal Aid and also informed that our bank accounts would be frozen, as this is what happens in this ‘situation’.

“Now, as if I wasn’t already disappointed that NO ONE had tried to contact me or return ANY of our calls – but to be now told that information, I was totally floored.

“Anthony had a very big part in the construction and overall running of this huge tank and I was just gutted that he was now being treated like he never really existed or meant nothing to this company. No call from his Supervisor perhaps with a message of condolence, no warning from admin not to expect his pay on the usual payday, no offer of counselling or even a bunch of flowers.”

Mrs Johnson said after doing some research and contacting the Australian Taxation Office, she discovered everything she was told was “completely false”.

“How can such a large company get it so wrong? How can they treat an employees family this way? How can they misinform, outright lie and conceal the truth? Onsite they weren’t told how he had died – advised that I had been contacted, offered counselling?” she wrote.

“How can they hand pick a couple of guys who would be approved for leave to attend his funeral? How can they tell those few that they would have to pay for their own airfares? How can they not inform Anthony’s workmates of the details of the funeral? How can they keep this “situation” quiet and not have the balls to do what was right? How can they treat our family in this cruel way? HOW??????”

Leaving a final tribute to her husband at the closing of her story, Mrs Johnson said her husband was a “legend”.

“He looked after everyone else and was the one to ask if they were okay. He was the one that made everyone laugh. He was the one who helped the guys out when they were feeling low. He was the one who started and finished the day with a joke and cheeky grin,” she said.

“He was the one who made the others feel good. He was the one that kept it all together. He was the glue that stuck it all together. He was the one who successfully achieved being a great mate and a boss at the same time.

“Please make some noise for him. Please help me honour his memory…”

Theiss declined to comment.


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There are 18 comments

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    • Tony

      That’s so wrong I’ve worked for Thiess and I would have to agree it takes very little effort to console with people and grow a heart but this companies management should not be in their positions they are not good with employees let alone a grieving widow this is the future of our industry

  1. PJ Macca

    Fly in fly out on long term jobs or continuous work in a Area near a Town. Should not Happen. Should be made to live in that town & support the area to grow. Not Fly out an spend your money looking at a beach. If you do not want to live in the Area & help it grow. Then stay in the City & get a low paying job. I was a Coal Miner living in a Country Town in QLD, I have also work construct FIFO & would rather have live i the area. Instead of spending 2 Days Traveling out of a 4 day Break.

    • SE KARU

      @PJ MACCA- Coal mining is a long-time concern, construction is only a couple of years. Companies will not build houses for short-term, and many families would not want to be shunted off to a small closed community for this period of time. Sounds good in theory, but logistics are against it

    • Mark

      PJ Macca, What a stupid comment. If you choose to live in a place where there are limited services, but good money then thats your choice and i respect that. But you have no right to criticize anyone who makes choices other than yours. I have a young child who wants to be a brain surgeon when she grows up. Do you think shes going to achieve that living in a tiny mining town in the middle of nowhere? No. Yet i want her to have every opportunity and the best education and the most access to any service possible so she can achieve anything in life. I lived in small mining town for 7 years. I lived with restricted services and almost no choice about getting where i wanted to in life. I lived with ridiculously high pricing for everything, because it wasn’t near a city. You need change your perspective and start to understand that not everyone wants to live in a tiny mining town in the middle of nowhere. Some people want more in life. More for themselves and more for their family. And until tiny mining towns can provide these services and attractions, FIFO will continue to be the best way of life for many forward thinking families.

  2. Peter Hampton

    Pj macca your a twit. For a start your spelling is probably a reflection of your mental ability. So you want thousands of people to move to somewhere that can’t accommodate them. Dumb. And you think we all go to the beach on our days off. Dumb. And we don’t all do those crap rosters that you have in the coal. Most workers have a week off some have 2. And not everyone lives in the city. A lot live in country areas supporting those country towns. So pull your head out of your butt and have a little sympathy.

  3. Terry Mills

    PJ Macca, you maybe right in one sense, but there are also the people who do FIFO work because they carn’t get a Job in the city and relocating is not an option. Wide spread education on this topic maybe the key. Making people live in a town would not work, could even make the Suicide rate rise. There are no statistics released on local Suicide related to work and the area they live. I know I would not want to live where I am working!

    From a guy who does FIFO and wants to leave the industry and has been applying for work the last six months in his home town but has had no luck as yet obtaining a new position.

  4. Janelle

    All well and good to comment that you should live in the town where you are employed but in all honestly the bloody MINES sack permanent employees and keep on the FIFO workers who don’t have a home in that town but are in a camp… No job in a Mine is secure, I’ve worked in the Mines, and own a house still in the same town I originally started but no longer work in the Mines but have a lower paying job. Now I’m stuck in this town with a house I can’t sell so I can move away and study full time to have a different career. Mining has ruined a lot of country towns and I actually don’t blame FIFO workers for not wanting to pull up their family and move to a coal mining town when its cheaper to live on the coast for a start and your not guaranteed to keep your job anyway so why move and then be stuck in a coal mining town only to have to get up and move in a few years anyway to the next mining job.

  5. HR Smith

    I think this lady would get more public sympathy if she outlined how THIESS may have somehow been complicit in his death. I think expecting an instant payout from them and having them “reaching out” is probably not realistic for a remote organisation. FIFO is not a family friendly choice. I am sure they will settle when due process is observed – if they don’t then we should all demand they do.

  6. patrick

    You’d have to get your facts right on a construction site and job role before you commented on the length of time on a site/sml town surely. And I doubt very much in this situation it would make any ounce of difference in the treatment the widow and his children have been treated. Did you totally miss the ladies conversation there or is it sour grapes for you?

  7. Jackie Cahill

    It’s not just Theiss it’s all the companies they push our partners to get the work finished before time and when something happens they don’t want to know the families involved. It is hard enough going through this without being treated like a you don’t exist. Why are we treated like second hand citizens by these companies.

  8. Jo Matthews

    I am admin for Maori In Perth and my heart goes out to you Sharon, I believe some admin workers have got no bloody idea what they are talking about and take it upon themselves to use this so called power they think they have because they are answering the phone…for goodness sake, get rid of them. Sue the company honey, there are people out there that will help. Come on FIFO workers give this lady some support.

  9. MD Lee

    Very Sorry for your loss x . There has to be accountability starting with that particular administrator . Rude and obnoxious as if the simple air they breath is better than ours . I generally find that with admin staff . All cranky as if we are wasting their time . I hope this comes back to haunt you you insensitive lot . 8 days is bullshit!!! My husband works on Barrow and be blowed if they treat people like this . Train your staff properly or sack them for being so pathetic! Thiess you are disgusting !!

  10. Cynthia Matthews

    Seems a person is just a number. No sympathy for the Widow. What sort of people are you?. Support, Guidance and Counselling. Sounds like a laugh. But this is a serious situation. So, how do you tend to remedy this. Have a Heart. For a huge Company, you must be human somewhere inside you. Do the right thing by all your employees and their families.

  11. Rose

    It’s too sad to contemplate Sharon. it’s disgusting and they should be ashamed.

    Goodline treated us like royalty when our FIFO family member past away onsite in Port Hedland 3 months ago working out in the gym. We were greeted by their official staff members at the airport the day of, they took care of flights, accommodation for 3, meals, they gave us a wonderful guide and driver and kept all employees well informed which secretly lead to offers of pay deductions from colleagues to help us fly him back to N.Z from Perth to be with the rest of the family and to give him the send off he deserved. They raised a considerable amount and we were in complete shock, we will never forget such generosity and will be forever grateful!
    Goodline shut down the machines once his passing occurred and lost a half a days work in his honor and safety. They also ordered a few moments of silence. We took the time we needed to grieve and bless his room and the gym, people came and paid their respects, it was a humbling experience. We waited in as much comfort as they could possibly give us for 2 days until the coroner released him into our care.

    This is the respect and compassion that you should have received Sharron. Goodline went above and beyond, we were so lucky but you should have been treated with the same compassion with or without compensation. May Goodline set the standards for all FIFO Employers! Share this shameful ordeal and let Theiss be a bad name. I can only imagine how overwhelming and incredibly hard everything must have been without the comfort of basic courtesy, I hope you will find peace.

  12. Danny G

    Totally agree with you Hera PJ Macca has missed the point all together. Condolences to you Sharon and to your family, the work load Theiss put on to their employees can be demanding and unnecessary stress can result. Once again condolences to you and family

  13. Amber Kennedy

    “Pj macca your a twit. For a start your spelling is probably a reflection of your mental ability”. Peter Hampton, not knowing the difference between “your” and “you’re” reflects pretty badly on your mental abilities too.

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