ETU National Media Release | Thursday 12 March 2020

To legitimately support apprentices, the Federal Government needs to ensure they receive stimulus payments—not just give handouts to bosses, says the Electrical Trades Union.

Today’s stimulus package includes $1.3 billion in so-called “support payments” to keep apprentices employed. But ETU National Secretary Allen Hicks says the claim that this expenditure supports apprentices is laughable. “What the Liberals are marketing as a big spend on apprentices amounts to nothing but a handout to small business owners”, Mr Hicks said. “This money is destined for the pockets of business owners, who’ll receive $7,000 in ‘wage assistance’ for each apprentice every quarter, including backdated payments. This is on top of other handouts to businesses, including tax breaks, asset write-offs, and direct cash payments for staffing. “While the Government may say this money will support apprentices, there’s no mechanism to make sure that’s how it’s spent—this is simply a handout with no strings attached. “Meanwhile Australian apprentices, electrical and otherwise, are some of our lowest-paid and most exploited workers. If the Government is serious about stimulating the economy, they should put this cash in the pockets of apprentices, who need the money and are sure to circulate it back into the economy. “With no equivalent payments to apprentices, this ‘support’ package favours business owners over sensible economic policy. With a recession looming, this is irresponsible to the point of negligence.” While the stimulus package includes limited one-time payments to welfare recipients, apprentices and other low-wage workers are currently overlooked. “What Australia needs to avoid catastrophic recession is targeted measures to genuinely stimulate the economy,” Mr Hicks said.

“Conventional economic wisdom would dictate this involve ongoing and meaningful cash support for our lowest-income earners, which includes apprentices and welfare recipients. “If the Government is serious about limiting the spread of COVID-19, they must also urgently guarantee all workers paid sick leave, regardless of their employment status, should quarantine measures be required.

"A failure to do this will seriously compromise containment efforts, jeopardizing public health and guaranteeing further economic damage.”

Media enquiries: ETU National Communications Coordinator – Zoe Power

0419 499 886,

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