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Responsibility for apprentices wages to pass from the IRC to the ERC: McMullan

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Media Release

Bob McM ullan MP Shadow M inister for Industrial Relations M ember for Canberra


IR32/96 26 August 1996


The need for the Australian Democrats to join the Opposition in defending the wages and working conditions of young Australians is now even more vital following the release of Budget detail, the Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations, Bob McMullan said tonight.

Addressing the North Woden Branch of the ALP, Mr McMullan outlined the concerns the Opposition had already raised about the application of youth allowances to trainees and apprentices, and about youth wages generally.

"But an even more disturbing element of the Government's attack on young people is now clear," Mr McMullan said.

"The Workplace Relations Bill (Schedule 13) permits the so-called 'approving authority' (who can be anyone nominated by Amanda Vanstone) to approve an Australian Workplace Agreement under which an apprentice will only be paid for hours spent in productive work. This means the weekly take-home pay of an apprentice can be cut below the award entitlement.

"After initially denying this fact, the Government now acknowledges that this is a clear breach of John Howard's 'rock solid guarantee' that no-one would be worse off under the Bill. They have tried to cure the breach by claiming the Government will 'top-up' apprentice wages to the applicable National Training Award wage.

"But while the 'top-up' proves the breach, it doesn't solve it.

"Firstly, the 'top-up' isn't enough. As the figures in the example below show, a young person entitled to an award wage of $228.50 per week will, if their wages are cut, only be entitled to a 'top-up' which will bring their wage to $158 per week.

"Secondly, there is no guarantee that the 'top-up' will actually be passed on to the apprentice. Amanda Vanstone's dissembling efforts yesterday on Meet the Press made that abundantly clear.


Telephone: (06) 277 4428 ♦ Facsimile: (06) 277 8499

"Thirdly, the amount of the 'top-up' itself is vulnerable to review by the Expenditure Review Committee every year.

"Apprentices today have the security of an award wage guaranteed by the IRC. After the Government is finished with them, they will have the insecurity of a wage 'top-up' at the mercy of the ERC."

Mr McMullan said that the obvious threat posed by these unfair and unreasonable arrangements could only be removed if the apprentice and trainee wage provisions in Schedule 13 of the Workplace Relations Bill are deleted. Mr McMullan said he was confident that, given the Democrats' commitment to young people, they would join with the Opposition

in the Senate to defeat these provisions.

For further information: David Fredericks (06) 277 4428 or 015 497 974.


The Metal Trades Industry Award currently provides a minimum weekly wage for a second year apprentice (aged 17) of $228.50.

Under Schedule 13 of the Workplace Relations Bill the 'approving authority' could approve an AWA under which the apprentice is deemed to do productive work for only 50% of the working week. The apprentice would therefore be entitled to $114.25 per week.

The Government says it will 'top-up' the apprentice's wage to the National Training Award wage, which for 17 year olds is $158 per week.

So the apprentice's take home pay has been cut by $70.50 per week.