Dodgy apprentice and hiring scheme is a recipe for exploitation

By Simon Stokes

The CFMEU has warned that measures in the Federal Budget that are supposed to encourage businesses to take on apprentices and new workers will do nothing to stem the declining completion rates of apprenticeships and could actually lead to job losses and the exploitation of younger workers.

National CFMEU Construction Division Secretary, Dave Noonan, has warned of loopholes and pitfalls that have been used by dodgy operators in the past and will no doubt be used again under the announced scheme.

“If apprentices are engaged with the expectation of a full four-year apprenticeship but dumped after one year when the government subsidy ceases, it is a cruel hoax and a recipe for exploitation”, said Dave Noonan, CFMEU National Construction Secretary.

“The CFMEU will take a hard line against the exploitation of apprentices or workers being sacked by unscrupulous bosses who take advantage of them.”

CFMEU WA State Secretary, Mick Buchan, echoed those concerns and was scathing of the Federal Government.

“How many times is this Government going to throw young workers under the bus by letting them be exploited as cheep subsidised labour only to be thrown away with little or nothing to show for it once the subsidy ends”, Mr Buchan said.

“We all know there are companies who use young workers as a cash cow. They employ them while there’s a Government subsidy, don’t provide the training or mentoring those young workers deserve, and then just replace them once they’re no longer eligible for the subsidy”.  

Very high numbers of construction apprentices are already not completing their apprenticeships. Latest figures show 82,465 withdrew or cancelled their apprenticeship during the five years to March 2020, compared to only 53,115 who actually completed their apprenticeship.

And the rate of new apprenticeship commencements has slumped under this government by 21.5% on the 2016 figures.

“The measures announced by the Treasurer do nothing to encourage businesses to take on and properly train apprentices for the long-term”, said Dave Noonan.

“If the government was serious about getting more apprentices into the construction industry, they would end the current ban on apprentice ratios on government jobs and demand the employment of apprentices on all federally funded projects.”

“And they should do a hell of a lot more to support the TAFE system.”

“But instead they announce a useless one-year subsidy that creates an incentive for employers to replace existing workers on good wages with low paid apprentices for the 12 months and then just dump them. It is a recipe for exploitation.”

Mick Buchan had some advice for both experienced workers and young apprentices entering the construction industry.

“This Government is not your friend. They have no interest in improving your wages and conditions or providing you a secure job. Exactly the opposite.”

“They’re out there on behalf of big business finding ways to use public money to subsidise private companies, take away good secure jobs, and drive down your wages and conditions so that their rich mates can make even more money off of your hard work.”

“And the only way we stop them is to get in the Union, stand up as one, and fight back.”