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Campaign highlights underpayment of apprentices

A Fair Work Ombudsman report has revealed that one in three Australian businesses audited as part of the agency’s National Apprenticeship Campaign failed to pay their apprentices correct wages.

Over the course of the campaign, which ran 2 years until to June 2016, the Fair Work Ombudsman checked on 2266 apprentices in 822 business audits.

The audits found 32 per cent of employers checked (264 businesses) had not paid their apprentices correctly and 178 businesses (22 per cent) did not meet record-keeping and payslip requirements.

The campaign led to the the Ombudsman recovering $339,433 for 323 apprentices. The FWO also issued 54 formal cautions, seven compliance notices and five infringement notices.

AMWU Apprenticeship Coordinator Ian Curry said that he was not surprised by these findings.

"The Union hears from Apprentices every week who are not being treated properly at work," he said.

"This includes not being paid correctly, not receiving their entitlements, employers not complying with the terms of the apprenticeship, down to the absolute basics of not receiving a correct payslip.

"It further proves what the union has always known - that apprentices are at a real risk of being exploited at work."

The Fair Work Ombudsman, upon releasing the report, said that "apprentices and trainees account for less than 3 per cent of the Australian workforce yet they account for more than 7 per cent of dispute lodgements with the Fair Work Ombudsman. This is disproportionately high."

The union has further noted that whilst the campaign from the Ombudsman is very welcome, it was unable to ensure that every apprentice was being treated fairly.

"By its very nature, an Ombudsman can only step in when something goes wrong," said Mr Curry. 

"We want to encourage every apprentice to join their relevant union, so they get the support they need from the day they start training right through to the end of their working life. This also means that Apprentices have support every day in the workplace, and access to support and advice any time they need it."

Any apprentice wanting to Join the AMWU can join online today or call 1300 732 698 or email amwu@amwu.asn.au.

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