Manufacturing News

Apprentices consider walking out due to poor wages

A new survey reveals a majority of apprentices have contemplated quitting their jobs in the manufacturing industry due to poor wages and lack of acceptable on-the-job training.

The study, conducted by the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU), indicated that 66% of survey respondents working in manufacturing fields, sick of living hand to mouth or 'just above the poverty line', had thought about leaving their apprenticeships and entering other industries such as mining or hospitality.

Forty percent of survey respondents had considered giving up their jobs due to lack of mentoring from senior team members, and 34% had thought about throwing in the towel because their friends working in other industries were receiving more training and higher remuneration.

AMWU acting national secretary Paul Bastian said the situation is unacceptable, as apprentices should be learning skills for our future.

“Manufacturing needs skills and apprenticeships are the pathway to providing those skills so we must attract and retain people into skilled trade apprenticeships,” he said.

“In order to attract and retain apprentices in our trades, we must address the issue of low pay rates and we must address the issue of relativities so there are genuine incentives for people to learn and work in high skilled jobs.”
Apprentices would be better off working casual jobs in the hospitality industry, which is notorious for paying low wages, Bastian said.

“Apprentices report being paid as little as $7.60 per hour. Compare that to the $11.20 an hour workers get for making hamburgers and you’ll immediately see where the drop out problem arises,” he said.

One respondent admitted considering a job at McDonalds because it paid more than a manufacturing apprenticeship.

“…it’s the people that don’t work in the mines that are feeling it. Being paid the award rate, there is just no incentive for them, when they can be paid more working at McDonalds,” said the respondent.

The AMWU and other industry unions have reportedly launched a claim through Fair Work Australia to increase award and apprentice wages.

The claim also calls for a review of compensation included in an apprenticeship position, to ensure workers are given funds for external training and related travel.

AMWU is calling on other industry associations and the federal and state governments to back measures to properly recognise and reward those who take-up manufacturing apprenticeships.

"We don't have a skills crisis in Australia, we have a training crisis,” said Bastian.

Manufacturers fearful for their future

Last year, manufacturers in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley region said they were fearful for the future of manufacturing in the area unless more young people got into the industry.

The chair of the Hunter Manufacturing Association, Bob Cowan, said the mining industry is poaching workers from manufacturing companies, who come prepared with trade skills.

Cowan said was is concerned for the future of manufacturing in the Hunter region, which has a strong manufacturing and mining base.

"This is the fear, we certainly have some good programs for apprentices, but we're not getting enough young people wanting to be in the trades," he told ABC at the time.

"They're looking for the quick dollar in the mining industry.

"At the end of the day, if we don't have young people coming through wanting to be in a trade, then our manufacturing industry is in serious trouble, and we'll just fill up with imports."

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