Young workers ripped off

A recent TUC report has exposed massive exploitation of young apprentices by unscrupulous employers, with the blessing of the New Labour government and the Low Pay Commission.

Jake Moore

An estimated 70% of apprentices who are learning skills in trades as diverse as construction, health care and retail are exempt from the already criminally low minimum wage rates. Apprentices under the age of 19, and older apprentices in their first year of training are entitled to a minimum weekly wage of just £80 per week. This falls to £50 a week in Wales, and a meagre £40 in Northern Ireland.

The TUC report estimates that in low-paid sectors, apprentice drop-out rates are as high as four out of ten. Furthermore, 5% of apprentices are still receiving less than the £80 per week minimum, and in some sectors, such as retail and customer services, apprentices reported receiving no wage at all!

Apprentices are the lifeblood of industry, helping replenish skilled positions as older workers retire or others leave their prospective trades. However, is it any wonder drop-out rates are so high when you consider the poverty pay and exploitation many apprentices encounter?

Bosses make their super-profits by exploiting workers’ labour, but without a skilled workforce their profits would soon dry up. Construction union UCATT estimates that the construction industry requires 87,000 new recruits each year – without apprentices the industry would soon collapse – it is time apprentices are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

  • Scrap minimum wage exemption for apprentices, as a step towards a minimum wage of £8 per hour for all. For an end to apprentices being used as cheap or free labour!
  • For apprentices’ conditions to be brought in line with those of other workers.
  • Defend and expand the apprenticeship programme to provide high quality accessible training for all.