“The union push to abolish junior and apprentice pay rates is a short-sighted plan that will hurt the very workers they are trying to help,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.

“Our workplace relations system has long recognised the importance of providing lower rates for junior workers in order to protect their vulnerable position in the labour market.

“Younger workers already face more than double the unemployment rates of other workers, and in the currently weakening labour market youth unemployment has risen much faster than the national average.

“The necessity for junior rates has been accepted repeatedly by the Fair Work Commission and Productivity Commission. They provide a vital incentive for employers to provide opportunities for young and inexperienced workers to enter the workforce. They also reflect the inherently limited work experience of these workers relative to other employees.

“There are 526,000 employees on junior rates and 236,000 on apprentice rates in the economy. They overwhelmingly work in industries which are currently struggling the most such as retail, accommodation & food services and construction.

“Minimum rates for apprentices have been carefully determined by the Fair Work Commission. They reflect the fact that apprentices are undertaking a training arrangement.

“A deeply misguided proposal to remove apprentice rates risks undermining the ability of employers to provide these training opportunities.

“Such a fundamental change to our workplace relations system would create a major barrier to delivering the workforce the skilled people that our economy needs. It would undermine a crucial pathway to well-paid and rewarding careers for younger workers.

“The junior rates proposal is a clear example of unsustainable union overreach that is entirely out of touch with economic reality and will be deeply problematic for both employers and employees,” Mr Willox said.

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