Education Minister Christopher Pyne must step in and clean up his assistant Simon Birmingham’s mess before ill-conceived VET reforms can dent the nation’s productivity.
The federal government has undone thirty years of successful industry collaboration by locking unions and workers out of its newly-announced Industry and Skills Committees.
Assistant Education Minister Senator Simon Birmingham has ignored the interests and safety of working Australians, said Electrical Trade Union national apprenticeships officer Mark Burgess.
“If the Minister continues down the path of employer-only consultation, we will see quality training outcomes of apprentices reduced significantly, which will exacerbate skills shortages, and impose a huge risk to community assets and public safety” he said.
“For more than 30 years, skills councils have been a collaboration, between industry, unions and professional organisations. They’ve delivered quality training outcomes, servicing the needs of skills and productivity throughout Australia.
“With today’s announcement Senator Birmingham has trashed that tradition and robbed workers and industry of the gains it would have delivered in the future.”
Mr Burgess warned that safety standards and productivity would suffer if workers were not represented on the new councils.
“This is a high risk industry and should be treated as such,” he said.
“We will see apprentice conditions decline, as employer associations try to introduce policies such as night trade school for apprentices and a reduction in the award wage.”
The announcement, which comes only weeks after unions were excluded from the Industry Reference Committee, is part of a dangerous trend of locking unions out of VET bodies that will leave them lop-sided and industry underskilled.
“This is just another ideological attack from this conservative Abbot Government, to lock out the voices of workers through their respective unions,” Mr Burgess said.
The moves could lead to the deterioration of work and safety standards across a number of industries.
“Any attempts to deregulate or water down license standards should be completely rejected by these new committees, in the interest of community safety,” Mr Burgess said.
“The Assistant Minister has got this very wrong, and I call on the Education Minister to withdraw these reforms until such time as a proper and thorough consultation has taken place between industry stakeholders, including the Electrical Trades Union.”
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