Apprentices screwed in wage decision

Today’s minimum wage decision fails the needs of already struggling apprentices, delivering them a real wage cut that could slow Australia’s clean energy transition.

Workers on the minimum wage will receive a well-earned $40 per week or 5.2 per cent increase.

However a first year electrical apprentice who already earns less than 60 per cent of the  minimum wage will get barely half that $40 per week dollar amount, instead receiving just $20.69 per week extra or 4.6 per cent.

This represents a wage cut in real terms. In fact, from July 1, a first year apprentice electrician’s wages will decrease from 58.2% of the minimum wage to 57.9%, a concerning trend of apprentice wages falling further behind the minimum wage.  

Apprentice completion rates currently sit at only 52 per cent and need to rise to give Australia the skilled energy workers needed for the clean energy transition.

“It just got harder for an apprentice electrician to complete their training,” said Michael Wright, acting ETU national secretary.

“This country needs to get serious about skilling up Australians. Thanks to this decision you earn more working two weekend penalty rate shifts on minimum wage than you do for a full week as an apprentice. No wonder our completion rates are a disgrace, young workers are having to quit their trade just to make ends meet. This is bad news for them, bad news for the industry and bad news for the nation.

“Australia needs skilled trades to aggressively rewire our homes, industry and grid. And we need real opportunities for our youth and for workers deskilling out of industries in decline. This decision is a dagger to the heart of our nation’s training effort. It callously disregards how hard apprentices and trainees are doing it.

“There is a simple fix to this problem, and that is for every low paid worker – including apprentices and trainees – to receive a $40 a week increase. This is the bare minimum needed for those workers to keep food on the table and the bare minimum to keep Australians in training.

“The ETU will continue pressing the Fair Work Commission to stop overlooking apprentice pay rates. The best thing apprentices can do to win a living wage is add their voices to this campaign by joining their union today.”

This article was publised on 15 June 2022.