Australian unions have been appealing to Fair Work Australia regarding the abysmally low wages of apprentices. David Oliver, of The Australia Council of Trade Unions, has said that ‘The pay rates don’t reflect the reality that many apprentices are adults and have adult responsibilities like kids and a mortgage’. He also said that employers had complained about apprentices not completing their training, but that this was happening because financial responsibilities forced them to bow out of the schemes. 

It is certainly arguable that the very low rates of pay for apprentices represent exploitation of the most vulnerable people in the work force. Many of these people are re training as the result of being unable to find other work, or having been made redundant from previous roles. Paying them very low wages that will not allow for the payment of housing, bills and groceries is simply denying people the opportunity to improve their prospects and provide for their families.

Traditionally, apprentices were school leavers who were supported by their families as they trained. However, this was during a time when it was possible to get and keep a job if not for life, then certainly in the long term. The benefits far outweighed the low wages, and no one went hungry as they had people supporting them.

Today, in order to be employed and stay that way, people have had to retrain when required, and be prepared to change roles and industries as the economy demands. The current wage structure for apprentices does not allow for this change, and does not account for the fact that many of them are adults who do not have the support of families to enable their changes in career.

People are adapting to the economic climate by learning new skills and changing career paths, and businesses must accept that they must be paid a proper living wage while they do so. Businesses that are keen to attract new recruits and develop a pool of skilled labour must provide the required investment. The government also has a role to play. Unless it wants to see hard working people becoming poverty stricken and unable to work, it must legislate so that apprentices are paid enough to live on and provide for their families. That is a basic right that people should not have to fight for.

Perhaps this story suggests that employment legislation is in need of an overhaul. It should be designed to protect individuals similar to family law, as well as businesses, and people have a right to expect that. If that doesn’t happen, unscrupulous employers who pay low wages on which people cannot survive will find themselves being taken to court by the brave few.

Mr Oliver has said that ‘When you can get $7.60 an hour as an apprentice, or $11 an hour for flipping burgers, the drop out rate is pretty understandable’. Who can argue with that? The problem is, if all the apprentices do take this attitude, the pool of skilled labour will dramatically reduce in the future. Businesses will find that their lack of investment comes back to bite them, and the economy in general.

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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