Posted on 17-4-2013
Apprentice Craig Stewart received almost $7,000 in backpay after his employer relied on incorrect advice from employer group NECA.
Craig served the third year of his electrical apprenticeship in 2012, but was paid at the second-year rate by Electrical Board Makers.
The St Marys-based company froze the young worker’s pay after he failed two TAFE subjects.
Electrical Board Makers underpaid the ETU member for a full year, leaving him on an hourly rate of approximately $12, when he was legally entitled to around $16.
The firm deflected Craig’s attempts to rectify the underpayment, only to cave in at the 11th hour when the ETU and Fair Work Australia got involved.
Company director David Merrick admitted Electrical Board Makers had erred but blamed bad advice from NECA.
‘NECA has changed the advice given to us earlier regarding competency based progression of apprentices,’ Merrick admitted in an email to organiser Stewart Edward on 4 February.
NECA – the National Electrical and Communications Association – is the peak employer body for electrical contracting companies.
Craig Stewart is now happy in a new job with another electrical firm, but he remains bitter about his treatment.
He says the company was well aware of ongoing abuse in its workshop that forced him to seek medical help for anxiety and depression. The abuse severely hampered Craig’s ability to study and at one stage left him feeling suicidal.
He made written complaints and was supported by the ETU, but the problem continued.
Craig said the ETU was ‘absolutely brilliant’ in achieving the $7,000 backpay.
‘The first thing any apprentice should do is sign up with the union. That is a big lesson that I learned.’
ETU organiser Stewart Edward slammed NECA for advising Craig’s employer that his pay could be frozen.
‘It’s a massive fail from the peak employer body. They owe Craig and the company an apology.’
‘This was resolved on the eve of a scheduled Fair Work mediation. The young man was put through a year of unnecessary stress,’ said Stewart.