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Annie Hayes



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TUC campaigns for an end to ‘cheap’ apprentice labour


The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is calling on the government to tackle what it is dubbing the apprenticeship ‘quality divide’.

According to the TUC, there should be a wage hike for the 250,000 apprentices in England to improve the quality of training and put a halt to increasing drop-out rates.

Decent Pay for Apprentices – the report from the TUC – states that some apprentices are being paid as little as £1.54 an hour, with low pay particularly affecting female apprentices, who on average are paid 26 per cent less than male apprentices. Young women working in areas such as hairdressing, early years education, and social care tend to be the most poorly paid, said the TUC.

In 2005, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) established a minimum payment of £80 a week for apprentices; most are exempt from minimum wage laws. The TUC said this rate should be increased to £110 a week, which would roughly be in line with the minimum wage youth rate of £3.40. Less than one in 10 are paid between the LSC minimum rate of £80 and the TUC proposed rate of £110.

TUC regional secretary Roger McKenzie said: “Increasing the minimum pay rate would be a drop in the ocean for employers in terms of payroll costs, but would make a huge difference to some of the worst paid apprentices. By paying a fair wage, more young people will be able to afford to complete their apprenticeship, with employers more likely to have a fully trained worker at the end.”

The prime minister recently announced that the issue of minimum wage exemptions for apprentices would be looked at by the Low Pay Commission but, according to the TUC report, this is unlikely to lead to any changes before October 2009.

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Annie Hayes


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