Unions want to abolish junior, apprentice pay rates

Employers slam the 'deeply problematic' proposal

Unions want to abolish junior, apprentice pay rates

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is pushing for the abolition of junior and apprentice pay rates - a move that employers are condemning as "short-sighted."

ACTU's peak Congress meeting this week saw the endorsement of a new youth policy to address what it described as "discriminatory rates" for young people.

According to ACTU, the rates represent massive pay cuts for young people who are already heavily impacted by the cost-of-living crisis.

"Young people don't get discounts on their rent or youth grocery bills, so why should they get youth wages?" said ACTU secretary Sally McManus in a statement.

"Wage discrimination in the forms of youth wages, discriminatory super rules, and forms of unpaid work such as internships, are compounding economic insecurity for young people."

In Australia, ACTU said junior rates apply to 75 awards, leaving junior workers paid with only a percentage of the relevant adult pay rate.

"The cards are already so heavily stacked against young workers. It is unfair for them to have to work harder and longer to pay the same bills as other adults," McManus said.

'Deeply problematic' plan

But employer associations across Australia are opposing the proposed abolition of the pay rates.

National employer association Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox called the plan "short-sighted."

"Such a fundamental change to our workplace relations system would create a major barrier to delivering the workforce the skilled people that our economy needs. It would undermine a crucial pathway to well-paid and rewarding careers for younger workers," Willox said in a statement.

"The junior rates proposal is a clear example of unsustainable union overreach that is entirely out of touch with economic reality and will be deeply problematic for both employers and employees."

According to the chief executive, the Fair Work Commission and the Productivity Commission have "repeatedly" accepted the necessity for junior rates.

"Our workplace relations system has long recognised the importance of providing lower rates for junior workers in order to protect their vulnerable position in the labour market," Willox said in a statement.

He added that junior pay rates provide a vital incentive for employers to provide opportunities for young and inexperienced workers to enter the workforce. They also reflect the fact that apprentices are undertaking a training arrangement.

"A deeply misguided proposal to remove apprentice rates risks undermining the ability of employers to provide these training opportunities," Willox said.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) also slammed the proposal, warning that it would have consequences for young employees.

"Having no junior pay rates would make hiring young people far less attractive to businesses," said David Alexander, ACCI chief of policy and advocacy, in a statement. "This would be catastrophic for young workers, especially in retail, who would struggle to get a start in the workplace."

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