Sweeping changes to apprentice wages and conditions being pursued by unions would deter employers from hiring apprentices, the Australian Industry Group claims.
The unions have put their claim for wage increases of up to 70 percent a week for apprentices before a major Fair Work Commission hearing.
This would impact heavily on employers, apprentices and the community,” Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said.
“A large proportion of apprentices are paid above award wages, which reflects the fact that employers are prepared to pay above award wages if they can afford to do so and if they are having difficulty attracting suitable employees, he said. “Award wages are more likely to be paid by smaller businesses and those in rural and regional areas and the unions’ claims would be particularly unfair on these businesses.”
Mr Willox said the “costly and unacceptable” union claims could result in the loss of many existing apprentices’ jobs and many new apprenticeships not being offered.
This would affect the careers of many young people.
Union claims include:
- Wage increases of up to $180 per week (over 70 percent) for first year apprentices
- Alignment of minimum wage rates for first year apprentices across 34 industries, for example, electricians and hairdressers would be entitled to the same award wage rate
- Very large wage increases for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year apprentices, as well as adult apprentices
- Employers would be required to pay apprentices for the time spent travelling to TAFE colleges to undertake off-the-job training, requiring different amounts to be paid to each apprentice depending upon how far away from the TAFE college each apprentice lived and whether the bus or train was early or late on a particular day
- Employers would be required to count the time apprentices spent travelling to TAFE colleges within ordinary working time, meaning that if an apprentice spent 38 hours at a college in a particular week the travelling time would need to be paid as overtime
- Unworkable restrictions would be imposed on apprentices carrying out manual/ labouring work during the period of their apprenticeship;
- Apprentices would be entitled to an extra two weeks’ notice of termination, on top of the notice periods that other employees are entitled to and
- Apprentices would be entitled to redundancy pay if terminated due to a downturn in the employer’s business during the period of their apprenticeship.
“Apprentice numbers have fallen in the last year, Mr Willox said. “But the evidence shows that this is due to the tough economic and business environment in sectors such as manufacturing which are big employers of apprentices.
“Making the cost of engaging an apprentice much higher will simply result in less apprentices being employed and more skill shortages for industry. It would be a killer blow for apprenticeships in the current uncertain economic climate."