Moves on apprentice pay overdue – Government must support Labour bill to ensure apprentices are paid the minimum wage

16 May 2023

Labour workers’ rights spokesperson Marie Sherlock welcomed reports that Minister Harris is seeking to address the issues of apprentice pay particularly for the construction trades.

Senator Sherlock said that the rate needs to be set at a rate that will attract in and retain apprentices.

Senator Sherlock said:

“The reality is that trade apprentices are leaving in year one and year two because they cannot afford to train at paltry rates of pay when there are other less difficult higher paying minimum rate jobs in retail and logistics, available.

“If the Government is serious about securing the sustained flow of skilled labour into construction then the apprentices rates from year one and year two will have to rise significantly.

“Earlier this month, Government demonstrated their lack of urgency and concern about construction pay when they voted to delay for a 12 month period, the passing second stage of Labour’s bill to ensure all apprentices are paid the national minimum wage at the very least.

“The belated response by Minister Harris is welcome but Government must realise there is an urgency here. Last year, there was a fall in the number of craft apprenticeship registrations and if the Government are to recruit the 50,831 construction workers they have identified as being needed over the next six years, 82% of whom will have to come from the trades, they will need to act swiftly.

“The shortage of construction labour is going to pose a growing constraint to building more homes in this country. Importing construction labour from abroad is no silver bullet and while we believe it will be necessary over the coming years, it is vital that it is not seen as a substitute for a sustained flow of construction skills developed here.

“There has been a total failure when it comes to housing policy under this Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party coalition of convenience. With almost 12,000 people living in homelessness, we needed to see a change of tact and some long term, strategic thinking about how we can build more homes and fast.

“We in Labour have consistently advocated for state led and council led constructive emergency housing solutions, but we have yet to see any of them taken on board. That’s why the move on apprentices pay is hugely welcome. In a crisis, all that one can control is the controllables.

“Paying anyone below the minimum wage for a day’s work in this country is simply unacceptable. Labour will continue to fight the battle to also ban unpaid internships. Work is not a commodity to be exploited.”

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