Unions in a bid to boost pay rates for apprentices
A MAJOR review of apprentice wages will pit unions against employer lobby groups as the Fair Work Commission determines whether apprentices are being paid enough.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions called on the commission to increase pay rates for apprentices, many of whom were dropping out before completing their training.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said new research, commissioned by the unions, showed less than 50% of those who start an apprenticeship were actually finishing.
He said more dropped out of training than those who completed it, in part to low wages.
The research found apprentices today were older, more likely to be living independently, and more likely to have children of their own, than apprentices in the 1950s.
"Apprentice wages are currently less than the minimum wage and sometimes only slightly higher than the Newstart allowance. They do not provide enough money for apprentices to survive," Mr Oliver said.
A statement from Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox argued business could not afford to pay more.
Mr Willox argued a large number of apprentices were already being paid above the award for their industry, and the unions' claims would especially hurt regional businesses.
"The huge improvements in wages and conditions being pursued by the unions could result in the loss of many existing apprentices' jobs and many new apprenticeships not being offered, affecting the careers of many young people."