Concerns have been raised about Rio Tinto’s commitment to residential employment in Tom Price after half of the company’s local emergency services officers were told they would have to become fly-in fly-out or accept a redundancy.

Four out of eight ESOs based in the town — most of whom were long-term residents and volunteers — were asked to relocate to Perth with only several days’ notice last month.

Three of the four workers opted to accept redundancies.

A Western Mine Workers’ Alliance representative, who did not want to be named, said it was disappointing for Tom Price to potentially lose three of its most experienced volunteers in this way.

“Somewhere like Tom Price operates off volunteers who are often long-term residents, and if you remove the long-term residents and volunteers it leaves a big hole to try and fill,” he said.

“I’m concerned about the lack of regard shown by the business to not only these workers’ long-serving employment and loyalty, but also the impact that these sort of decisions have on the town.”

North West Central MLA Vince Catania said the decision would be a blow to the town.

“Given the parliamentary report a few years ago into FIFO, the current report into FIFO and the concerns that have been raised about mental health and the effect on a community of not having a residential workforce, this is another kick in the guts for the Tom Price community by a company that should be looking at a residential workforce rather than giving ultimatums to employees,” he said.

A Rio Tinto spokesman said the changes had been made following a review of the company’s emergency services functions across the Pilbara region.

“Following that review, four roles based in Tom Price have changed to FIFO positions with those impacted offered these roles,” he said.

“These FIFO positions have been designed to enhance our emergency services response by improving coverage across all Pilbara sites and will complement four existing residential-based roles in the town.”

The spokesman said the company was committed to Tom Price, with the town’s mostly Rio-owned housing almost full and the company set to advertise a number of local positions soon.