Master Builders Defends Apprenticeship System
Master Builders Australia will seek to protect the future viability of building and construction apprenticeships before a Fair Work Australia tribunal tomorrow.
Wilhelm Harnisch, CEO of Master Builders Australia said changes suggested by the CFMEU will make engaging apprentices unaffordable to many small employers.
“Master Builders strongly supports reforms to improve building trade apprentice retention rates, but the CFMEU’s claim to dramatically increase wages and restrict the work apprentices can undertake presents a significant cost risk for employers and the apprenticeship system.
“The apprenticeship system is a valuable tool to teach people the skills required to succeed in the building industry. It’s an important learning process that has to be done through formal training and on site education, which is costly.
“The CFMEU’s proposal has the potential to threaten apprentice retention by making the engagement of apprentices completely unaffordable. It lacks an understanding of the challenges facing employers.
“We recognise there are many pressures on apprentices during their training period. However, the claim ignores the important fact that an apprentice is paid to learn their trade, which will set them up for a rewarding career over their lifetime. In contrast, a university student pays tens of thousands of dollars for their education,” Mr Harnisch said.
Master Builders Australia will argue that many aspects of the CFMEU’s proposed changes are beyond the jurisdiction of the Fair Work Australia tribunal. Master Builders will ask the tribunal to determine the boundaries of its jurisdiction in this area, with States and Territories having legal responsibility for regulating apprentices’ training contracts.
“Aside from much of the claim being outside the Fair Work Australia tribunal’s jurisdiction, the CFMEU’s proposal to increase the minimum base wage by 33 per cent for first year apprentices comes at the worst possible time for the industry.
“The building and construction industry is going through a major downturn in activity. Most builders are struggling to keep work on the books and to keep their staff employed. This was confirmed by the Government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook on Monday.
“The approach taken by the CFMEU reflects a complete lack of commercial understanding and the challenges facing employers. To seek a dramatic increase in apprentice wages and limit the tasks they can complete is commercially irresponsible and will compound the current problems facing the apprenticeship system,” Mr Harnisch concluded.