Apprentices are the future of the industry and the CFMEU supports high levels of apprentices on building sites. CFMEU NSW takes great pride in assisting and representing apprentices.
Being new to the workplace, a lot of young workers are not aware of their rights and entitlements. Some employers take advantage of apprentices as cheap labour.
The trade union movement has an important role to educate and organise young workers on their rights and responsibilities at the workplace.
If you are new to the construction industry as an apprentice or trainee, there are some things you need to know.
Apprentices and trainees have the same rights as other workers to a safe and healthy work environment and decent pay and conditions. The one significant difference is the contract of training you are employed under.
What is a 'contract of training'?
A contract of training is a legally binding agreement between you and your employer. You get certainty of employment and training in your chosen occupation. Your employer must provide you with on-the-job training, and let you go to off-the-job classroom training at a TAFE college or other approved training provider. In return, apprentice and trainee rates of pay are significantly lower than those of fully qualified tradespeople and skilled workers.
The CFMEU takes the view that those rates of pay should not be so low that they put young workers off taking up an apprenticeship or make it too hard for them to complete it because they cannot afford to live on such low rates.
There are three main types of contract of training in the construction industry. These are:
The indentured apprenticeship (which is being phased out in favour of Modern Apprenticeships)This is a binding (generally four-year) agreement between an apprentice and his/her “master” or employer. The indenture system is hundreds of years old, and its great advantage is that it is almost impossible for the employer to cancel the contract of training. However, its lack of flexibility has meant that employers have increasingly moved away from “indenture” to the more flexible “trainee apprenticeship” or “Modern Apprenticeship”.
The trainee apprenticeship or Modern ApprenticeshipIncreasingly, apprentices in the industry are being engaged under an apprentice traineeship or Modern Apprenticeship. This contract of training is less rigid than a traditional indenture, but is still more secure than the normal contract of employment. Most apprentices employed under a group apprenticeship scheme come under this model.
The non-trade traineeshipThese traineeships are offered in areas that have not traditionally been classified as "trades". In the construction industry, there are trainees in areas such as plant operating (that is, operating heavy construction machinery), steel-fixing and materials handling (crane-related operations). Such traineeships lead to certificates or tickets in the particular skills. But the traineeship is generally shorter in duration than an apprenticeship.
As part of this commitment the CFMEU NSW employess a part-time apprenticeship officer. Being mistreated or ripped off puts many young workers off finishing or taking up apprenticeships.
Email CFMEU Apprenticeship Officer Charishma Kaliyanda
Your rights on the job as an apprentice or trainee
These are some of your rights as an apprentice or trainee in the building and construction industry:
- You have the right to a safe and healthy work environment and decent amenities (toilets, lunch room etc).
- You have the right to join the Union and to be represented by Union officials.
- You have the right to be trained, and not just used as cheap labour. Where it is a provision of your contract of training, the employer must release you for off-the-job training.
- You have the right not to be victimised or 'bastardised' on the job. Sometimes the treatment of apprentices and trainees goes beyond a joke. If this is the case, the Union will stand up for you.
- You have the right to basic industrial standards such as sick leave and holiday pay.
- On unionised jobs, you may be entitled to additional payments such as site allowance, productivity allowance and redundancy pay.
- If you have been underpaid, you have the same right to recover that money as any other worker.
If you are not being treated properly at work, you don't have to put up with it. Contact your local CFMEU Branch.
How to join the union
If you are not already a member of the CFMEU, you should join up. Apprentices and trainees pay reduced rates and still enjoy the full benefits of belonging to the union. As well as having the CFMEU represent your interests when it comes to wages and conditions you will find that your union can help in other ways.
For further information email CFMEU Appprenticeship Officer Charishma Kaliyanda email@example.com
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