Friday, March 1st, 2013 - NECA
The peak Australian electrical industry body, the National Electrical and Communications Association (NECA), warned today (Thursday) that substantially increasing electrical apprentices pay rates would have a damaging impact on the industry leading to fewer employers being able to afford to take on new apprentices.

NECA, who is involved in the training of over 2000 electrical and communications apprentices through its group training companies across Australia, was responding to a report issued by the Electrical Trades Union today which calls for an increase in the modern award rate for electrical apprentices.

NECA’s Chief Executive Officer James Tinslay said, “The ETU’s campaign to substantially increase wages for apprentices in the electrical and communication industry represents the most important test for industry in decades. The campaign is part of a concerted effort by unions to increase wages and conditions for apprentices irrespective of an employer’s capacity to pay and is part of the Modern Awards Review 2012, soon to be before the Fair Work Commission.”

Union claims that will significantly increase the cost of employing apprentices include:

• doubling the existing Award rates for apprentices and significantly increasing conditions and allowances for apprentices;
• creating a higher paid ‘adult’ apprenticeship wage rate; and
• inserting competency based wage progression to fast track apprenticeship wages.
“The combined impact of union claims could lead to the base Award wage rate more than doubling, which would be devastating for the electrical industry.” said Mr Tinslay.

“The award rate is a safety net, not used by all employers but often referred to as a benchmark with many having a range of different above Award wages and conditions, including informal arrangements through to Enterprise Based Agreements depending on their capacity to pay and reward better workers.

“Wages are not the most critical factor in retention and completion of apprenticeships in our industry. It’s clear this factor becomes insignificant after the first year of the apprenticeship and other factors such as work relationships, lack of aptitude or suitability for the industry, personal reasons such as illness or moving residency are more prominent.

“Apprentice electricians are in training with paid time off to complete their study, unlike full time university students, and after the completion of their four year apprenticeship will earn more than most recent university graduates.

“Over recent months the electrical industry has faced significant pressures with many smaller and medium firms struggling to make ends meet. A substantial increase across the board in apprentice wages as advocated by unions will adversely impact on apprentice numbers and lead to another boom and bust cycle of apprenticeship intakes with apprentices only being taken on when business conditions are thriving. This will in turn perpetuate skills shortages in the electrical trades which have been an issue in recent years.

“Unfounded claims of underpayment harms the reputation of electrical apprenticeships when in reality they lead to rewarding and well paid lifelong careers.”

-ENDS-

Contact Profile

Peter Scott - Media and Communications Manager

P: 02 9439 8523
M: 0457 767 328
W: www.neca.asn.au

Keywords

NECA, National Electrical and Communications Association, apprentices, pay rates

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