Confusion reigns in apprentice award debacle

Published: 23 February 2017

Reports that Master Builders, All Trades Queensland and the Housing Industry Association have launched a bid to underpay Queensland apprentices are unfounded and grossly inaccurate.

Earlier this month, a Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruled that the Queensland State award that everyone was using actually ceased to apply two years ago.

Master Builders director construction, Corlia Roos said the ruling was a complete surprise, given that in the last two years the FWC has approved dozens of enterprise agreements that relied on the Queensland award, and also adjusted the Queensland award during its annual wage case reviews in 2015 and 2016.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has similarly advised employers to pay under the Queensland award,” Ms Roos said.

“Prior to the ruling, employers had been merely acting on advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) and applied the award rate they were advised to apply, which certainly did not amount to underpayment.

“Everyone, including unions, the federal government, state government, FWO and employers believed the Queensland orders were still in existence, with even the Electrical Trade Union’s own Group Training Organisation in Queensland continuing to rely on the Queensland award.

“This messy and unprecedented scenario could have a significant impact on apprentice numbers in Queensland and our application is about getting the legal position clarified and a definitive position on the correct award.

“If the Fair Work Commission’s ruling is indeed correct, then the government got it very wrong and should assist apprentices and employers through this legal quagmire.

“It certainly is not a bid to underpay apprentices – it is factually incorrect to label it as such.

“There is a real risk that the confusion created here could result in a big drop off in apprentice intake, send some businesses in the apprentice network broke and result in many job losses – a situation we are working hard to avoid.”