Apprenticeships key to unlocking housing crisis solutions – they must receive fair pay

03 May 2023
  • Labour Party publish bill to provide minimum wage for all workers
  • Calls for scaling up of short-term construction skills courses 

The Labour Party today (Wednesday, May 4th) will introduce a bill which, if enacted, would provide the minimum wage to all apprentices.

Labour workers’ rights Senator Marie Sherlock will put forward the bill during Private Members’ Time in the Seanad this evening from 17:30.

Without fair pay for fair work, Senator Sherlock said we will not be able to skill up Ireland’s indigenous construction workforce.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Today in the Seanad, Labour will introduce legislation to end this discrimination against apprentices, and provide all apprentices with a minimum wage. No working person should be paid less than minimum wage. Yet our apprentices, those learning the vital crafts and trades that help build homes and keep the roofs over our heads, are currently paid less than minimum wage in the first two years of their apprenticeship.

“The Government itself has said it needs to increase construction employment by 50,831 over three years; expanding construction employment by a third. The craft trades are key to this yet we see the numbers in apprenticeships falling, not rising. Last year, craft apprenticeship registrations fell by 439.

“Hope is not a strategy for this year, we need to address the problems with apprenticeship take up and apprenticeship completion.

“From speaking with contractors, they are finding it really difficult to find and retain apprentices, particularly in year one and year two of the apprenticeship. This is confirmed by Connect Trade Union who have said that excluding apprentices from being paid the minimum wage is forcing young workers out of the crafts.

“If we are serious about dramatically increasing construction employment and ensuring a steady flow of apprentices into the sector, then Government and employers need to look at pay.

“We know that the National Training Fund is in surplus by over €1.5bn and it is the NTF that funds the off the job training element of the apprenticeship while employers fund the on the job training. Employers need to reflect on the costs for them of constant labour shortages from not training enough apprentices plus the wasted cost when apprentices abandon after year one or two.

“Unlike the misty eyed impression of what apprenticeships used to be like, the reality is that apprentices are now coming to apprenticeships at an older age, many have the cost of living issues facing hundreds of thousands out there and they simply cannot afford to live below minimum wages when there are other easier jobs out there.

“Research on apprenticeships in Germany and Australia highlight the high correlation between poor completion rates and low rate of pay. In the midst of this housing nightmare in Ireland, Government needs to reflect on that. Investing in our apprentices is vital to unlocking the long-term and sustainable solution to the labour shortages that are causing delays in delivering homes.

“Apprenticeships play a crucial role in Ireland’s economy. We simply can no longer continue to undervalue them. Labour’s bill is about ensuring that all apprentices across the 66 apprenticeships are fairly paid, that it isn’t used as cheap labour in certain sectors and that there is a steady and sustained flow of skilled labour into sectors. Minimum wages must be the first step in moving to a single integrated framework for all apprenticeships.”

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