Apprentices may be eligible for back pay following a Fair Work Commission dismissal.
Apprentices may be eligible for back pay following a Fair Work Commission dismissal. agnormark

Apprentices underpaid across state, eligible for millions

APPRENTICES across the state could be eligible for millions of dollars in back pay, after the Fair Work Commission found many have been paid under the wrong award rate for more than three years.

On Tuesday an appeal was dismissed against a Fair Work Commission decision made on August 12 last year that the All Trades Queensland apprentices agreement should be measured against the modern award of $12.66 an hour, not the state award of $8.75 an hour.

Yet, according to the Electrical Trades Union, the All Trades Queensland enterprise bargaining agreement pays just $9.75 an hour to apprentices.

The union said following the dismissal, up to 2000 electrical apprentices across the state could have been underpaid by up to $4 an hour.

ETU apprentices officer Scott Reichman urged all electrical apprentices paid on the award to contact the union to investigate any potential underpayment.

He said the decision made it clear they should have been paid under the modern award since January 2014.

"There are about 1800 electrical apprentices in group training organisations across Queensland and potentially thousands employed by small contractors that are being paid under the state award, which is more than $100 a week less than the poverty line,” he said.

"We have argued this kind of exploitation of apprentices has been driving young people away from our industry as they struggle to afford to pay for transport, food or rent.

"It has now been proven this is the wrong award, and we want to ensure our most vulnerable workers are being paid the correct rate.

"We encourage any apprentices who are unsure whether they are being paid at the right rate to contact the ETU office as soon as possible to begin pursuing their entitlements.”

The ETU acknowledged the decision was the culmination of the combined efforts of the ETU, AMWU, Plumbers Union and CFMEU with apprentices across all these trades benefiting.

However, although Fair Work Commission vice president Adam Hatcher dismissed the appeal, he did note the August 12, 2016 decision raised issues that were novel, complex and would have broader implications for the pay rates and conditions of employment for trainees and apprentices in the state of Queensland generally.

All Trades Queensland has been contacted for comment.