|The union has successfully commenced its case for Apprentice justice at Fair Work Australia. The broader community took an interest in the issues we raised with national TV networks and Radio reporting on the historic claim.
In some of the media coverage of the case, we went head to head with the employers union, the Australian Industry Group. On ABC radio, we challenged Stephen Smith, AiGroup’s Head of Industrial Relations, over their outdated values that fundamentally accept Apprentices’ unlivable wage. AiGroup are not alone. Australian Business Limited (ABL) also supported the AiGroup’s submission saying apprentices “are trading off a proportion of their wages for the opportunity to learn real and valuable skills and to be paid to work while they are doing it”.
Your union says that apprentice wages sit at around 50% of an unskilled workers’ minimum wage. The training wage should not equal cheap labour. Professor John Buchanan in his evidence for the unions said that if an employer can not afford the proposed wage rise (which even if successful will still sit below the minimum wage) then maybe they shouldn’t be hiring apprentices in any case.
This belief that apprentices should be grateful for what they get has been around since the beginnings of the apprenticeship system. It wasn’t that long ago, when parents had to pay employers for their son’s apprenticeship place. These old values have no place in a free modern democratic society like ours today. Industry recognises that this method for teaching and learning a trade remains one of the best ways to train workers. Despite what ABL says, an apprenticeship is not charity for low socio-economic kids.
World class industries need world class employees with world class skills, and combined training on the job and tech training is the way to do it.
We know that employers don’t want to address your needs. Australian Business Limited is wangling their way out of this case by arguing what we should or shouldn’t discuss in court. For example they propose that travel related expenses should not be addressed in the award but should be left up to each employer.
Your union is not leaving this up to your employer’s goodwill or to chance. We are agitating in our workplaces to secure better conditions for apprentices. Our union will also be lobbying the employers union to do the right thing with us at the Fair Work Commission.
You can help us petition the AiGroup to stand up for what is right and fair. We have an online petition for you to get involved, sign the petition and pass on the link to your friends.
Fair Work Australia commissioners will be travelling around the country listening to apprentices, unions and employers.
To find out how this affects you or to keep you updated on the campaign log onto our website apprentice.amwu.org.au or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 732 698.
Yours in solidarity,